Although the new supernatural romance In Your Eyes wasn’t directed by Joss Whedon, it was written and produced by him. So while I had my apprehensions about the movie, I expected the clever, snappy banter on which Whedon has built his career. Unfortunately, the Whedon repartee fails to make an appearance in this lackluster film which feels more like it was made for TV.
In Your Eyes is about Dylan and Rebecca, two people living on opposite sides of the country, who have an inexplicable mental connection that lets them share each other’s sensory experiences. The connection has existed there whole lives but they have been unaware of it until now, when they are adults. Through this preternatural form of communication, they become friends and confidants, helping each other navigate the tumult of their respective lives: He’s an ex-con trying to stay on the straight and narrow; she’s caught in a bad marriage with a controlling husband.
Once you get past the light sci-fi spin, the movie is no different from your run of the mill romantic drama. Every plot development is contrived to encourage their getting together. This is understandable in that romances are ostensibly about people getting together, but beyond scratching that particular itch, the movie offers little to no reason for the audience to care about these characters. They are audience surrogates, not fleshed out, realized characters. The difficult situations in which they live make them sympathetic, but a union between the two is the only solution to their ills the movie ever suggests. The result is that scenes which are meant to be meaningful to the construction of their relationship seem false.
The supporting characters are equally as uninspired. Virtually everyone Dylan and Rebecca knows is selfish and conniving and devoid other discernible qualities. They are another part of the highly visible construct that is pushing the main characters together. Though to her credit, Jennifer Grey does offer a wicked, albeit brief, turn as a duplicitous friend to Rebecca, and seems to have some fun chewing a bit of scenery.
During the movie, I was frequently reminded of Spike Jonze’s Her. One thing In Your Eyes does successfully is implement its tele-sensory plot device. In this respect, In Your Eyes succeeds at enabling a suspension of disbelief as to how the leads are able to communicate. While Her concerns a relationship between a man and a computer and In Your Eyes is about a relationship between two people, both relationships play out virtually, with the respective partners not being in each other’s physical presence. But where Jonze’s film uses this wrinkle to comment on relationships and technology, In Your Eyes uses it to play out the trite beats of its tired romantic plot.
Both movies also feature sex scenes between the virtual lovers. In Her, the scene is of the main character Theodore and his operating system Samantha. Although they are in actuality doing something akin to phone sex, the scene plays emotionally like the actual physical consummation of their relationship. In Your Eyes has a similar scene where the characters engage in virtual sex using their sensory connection. But rather than a sensuous fulfillment, the scene plays like mutual masturbation as the characters caress themselves in lieu of one another. The scene is awkward and undermines any power it could have given to the seriousness of the Dylan and Rebecca’s relationship.
The greatest sin this movie commits is that it lacks the Whedon-esque dialogue. For a movie that is filled with copious amounts of dialogue, there are no memorable lines or tete-a-tete. That’s where Whedon is usually strongest: using quips and witty banter to bring his characters to life. Whedon’s universe is usually a place where you want to hang out, a place in which, in spite of death being just around the corner, you will have a good time. Instead, In Your Eyes takes itself too seriously and offers few to no humorous scenes. Gallows humor is a hallmark of all Whedon’s heroes and it goes a long way to endearing the audience to them. The inclusion of this trademark could have elevated In Your Eyes from a rote romance to a more human story. If Whedon’s name wasn’t attached to this project, there would be no notable difference.
Verdict: 1 out of 5
In Your Eyes has very little to offer. It’s a derivative movie that thinly veils well trodden romance plot with a sci-fi twist. The movie is doubly disappointing with the addition of Whedon’s name to the project, as this may raise expectations. A romantic film – any genre film – should be able to scratch the genre itch and still manage to tell an interesting story that features characters the audience can care about. Otherwise the movie loses its stakes and, at that point, fails to even succeed as merely genre fare. In Your Eyes could stand to take itself less seriously and have characters that rise to a more human level.