In the world of romantic comedies, there’s an entire subgenre of films where quirkiness is an objective in and of itself. The characters are damaged (but only in ways that make them endearing to both their fellow characters and the audience) and they exist in some version of small-town America (or England, if the film happens to be directed by Richard Curtis) where things have been sleepily carrying on unchanged for so long that you can barely tell whether the film is set in the past or the present. But is that necessarily a bad thing? It depends on how charmingly its executed. Love is Blind fulfills every one of this genre’s tropes, but its eccentricities walk on the right side of contrived.
Bess (Shannon Tarbet) is a seemingly normal young woman — she works at an optometrist’s office, attends college, and lives at home with her father (Matthew Broderick) and her mother (Chloë Sevigny). This living arrangement is only minorly complicated by the fact that she can’t see, hear, or in any other way perceive her mother, and in fact believes that she has been dead for a number of years. It’s described as an extreme form of the selective hearing that children experience but amounts to nothing less than a total blind spot which is, as you can probably imagine, troublesome — especially now that her father is experiencing more severe symptoms of Parkinson’s and major family decisions are being made.
Russell is the other half of our romantic duo. He’s a blandly disaffected 30-something who for some reason narrates the entire film without ever quite having anything to say. Really, his saving grace is the fact that he happens to be played by the singularly charismatic Aidan Turner — without him, both the character and the film itself would be in real trouble.
As it turns out, Russell is another person invisible to Bess. Utterly intrigued, Bess’s therapist (Benjamin Walker) gives her the assignment of speaking to him as though he were there, almost like an imaginary friend. At first, it’s awkward and she doesn’t see the point in it, but it quickly becomes a comfort. And although their relationship is entirely one-sided, an inexplicable bond develops between the two.
Love is Blind is more charming than it has perhaps earned. It’s a simple film that seems to be banking on the novelty of its central narrative conceit to make it interesting to audiences, and there are times where that isn’t enough. But at the same time, it spins an eccentric little yarn that draws us into the story, and in its better moments has a magical quality that is utterly beguiling. The cinematography is soft and dreamlike, and even the fairly standard visuals of the town make the viewer feel as though they’ve entered into an enchanted village that might disappear at any moment.
The strongest thing Love is Blind has going for it is that although it adheres to many of the tropes of the quirkily endearing romantic comedy, it also feels like its own unique animal. With a charismatic cast, engaging script, and gorgeous rural imagery, Love is Blind grows on you before you even know it.
Directed by: Monty Whitebloom, Andy Delaney
Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Matthew Broderick, Aidan Turner