I SEE YOU Review—Constantly Shifting Tone & Mood Make Film Fall Short
Starring: Helen Hunt, Jon Tenney, Judah Lewis
Written by: Devon Graye
Directed By: Adam Randall
When a series of young boys go missing in a somewhat small community, an entire family’s lives are put in danger in the Adam Randall-directed I See You. While that setup could lead to a pretty solid mystery/thriller with definite horror-leaning tendencies, what we’re given is a constant shift in tone and mood and a film that ultimately falls short of its mark.
I See You starts off with a young boy riding his bike home and suddenly flying off of his bike and into the air, leading us to believe that what we’re about to see is a supernatural horror film with a police procedural subplot. We meet the Harper family, comprised of mother Jackie (Helen Hunt), a woman living with the guilt of having been unfaithful to her detective husband Greg (Jon Tenney). Jackie’s son Conner resents her for “breaking the family apart” and there’s a fractured feeling to the Harpers that you, as a viewer, want to see addressed and resolved.
You care for these characters and while that should be a good thing, when the film goes from a good family trying to come to terms with the fact that they’re flawed humans all while Greg also has to solve the recent disappearances, to something entirely different, it makes it hard to really stay on board with the film. Those supernatural tinges don’t go anywhere and are never even mentioned again, and midway through the film, the entire genre seems to change, venturing into more of a found footage flick that makes its viewers relive the entire first half again, albeit through different eyes (or camera). That shift feels forces and just when you find yourself ready to tap out, the film shifts its approach yet again, heading back into a very dark murder thriller.
It’s in the lack of a concise vision that makes I See You so difficult to get on board with and it’s unfortunate, because there are shades of greatness found in the core story of a family torn apart all while also being invaded by outside forces (or people). If the film had stayed with that, it could very well have played along the lines of Zodiac or a true crime-like, serial killer/kidnapper flick, but the lack of knowing exactly where its going, tonally, makes the film suffer. Puzzles and twists are fun, but when a film relies on twist after twist, it begins to lose its effect, when every previous twist reveals itself to be the opposite of what we were told it was. I See You isn’t a whodunnit, but more along the lines of a whodunnit for what reason and no, that didn’t really happen that way and there happens to be something completely different going on as well. That may sound like a blast, but when a film ends up being that one frustrating part of Funny Games over and over and over again, it loses the momentum it had so confidently achieved early on in the film.
Filled with great performances by Hunt, Tenney and especially IT: CHAPTER ONE and TWO’s Owen Teague, I See You has glimpses of a really great movie in it, but the lack of knowing what kind of film it is and wants to be makes it inevitably become a missed opportunity.