At First Sight is built around a good premise: how will a blind man cope with being able to see after years of navigating through the world by touch, sound and smell? Blind Val knows, for example, that an apple is an apple by feeling its shape and its texture, and by noting its smell. But he doesn't know what it looks like. So when the seeing Val is shown a picture of an apple, he can't recognise it. Like a new-born child, he's faced with re-learning everything he knows. He's still disabled, but in a different way.
So it's a pity that the storyline, acting and direction do nothing to enhance this central idea. Shoehorned into a briskly-executed Boy Meets Girl formula, the plot is taken from a case study by Oliver Sacks, the doctor-cum-author who wrote the book Awakenings is based on. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that At First Sight simply recycles the core of that movie - a character afflicted with a disability has a chance to be freed from that disability, but just as he's learning to cope with it, he faces the prospect of returning to his former state. Here Awakenings' sleeping sickness is swapped for blindness, and director Winkler dips the whole tedious result so deep in sentimental goo that you might want to vomit into your empty popcorn tub.
There are some interesting moments (most of them about how the blind deal with the world around them), but any good work is undone by the am-dram acting. Chief culprit is Kilmer, whose idea of a blind man is a combination of Bruce Wayne on happy drugs with the mannerisms of Stevie Wonder. McGillis saves a little grace as Virgil's over-protective sister, while Lane has the best lines as an unconventional therapist. As for Sorvino, she looks wearied by it all, troubled perhaps that, with this and The Replacement Killers on her Hollywood CV, that now makes two flops in a row.
Too long, too slow and far too boring. A decent, albeit recycled, premise is wasted on a drab love story painted thick with sappy melodrama. There are some good moments, but the plot is so over-stretched that they rarely hold your attention.
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