The Unseen, 2017.
Written and Directed by Gary Sinyor.
Starring Jasmine Hyde, Richard Flood, and Simon Cotton.
Gemma and Will are shattered when their son dies in an accident. Gemma blames herself and starts to have panic attacks that affect her eyesight – and the audience’s point of view. Will, tormented, believes he is hearing his son’s voice calling out to him. To escape their grief, Gemma suggests they take up Paul’s offer to stay at his Lake District country getaway. Gemma’s, helped by ex-pharmacist Paul, tries to stop her panic attacks with medication. Will, unable to hear to his son in his bedroom back home, antagonizes Paul and suddenly goes home. Gemma is now reliant on Paul who appears to be developing genuine feelings for her welfare. Love, grief, and the frailty of the human condition are all brought to the fore as Gemma Will and Paul are caught up in a descent into violence, both psychological and ultimately physical.
Having been in prep for a long time, The Unseen is finally close to release. Game of Thrones star Lena Headey was seemingly attached way back in 2012. Having seen the film and going by the assumption of who she would have played, she would certainly have done very well in the role. In any case, as is common in the film industry it can often take years to get a film off the ground. By the time a film finally gets to the shooting, entire casts, lined up previously, may have come and gone. The Unseen has gone through its own evolution from pre to post production.
Written and directed by Gary Sinyor who is best known for 1999’s rom-com The Bachelor, with Chris O’Donnell and Renee Zellweger, the film tells the tale of a wealthy couple who are left shattered when their son dies of a tragic accident. Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) blames herself for the accident and begins to suffer from anxiety driven bouts of blindness. Meanwhile, husband Will (Richard Flood) is sure he can still hear their son in his room. The two find themselves unravelling. Having come to Gemma’s rescue following a terrifying loss of vision, the seemingly amiable Paul (Simon Cotton) offers to let them stay at his country retreat in the Lake District (which neighbours his own place there). The couple agree and head out for some much-needed rest, but their problems follow and it becomes increasingly clear that Paul may have ulterior motives.
Sinyor’s film does a fine job of balancing taut psychological study with more generic obsession thriller elements. It’s an interesting dissection of three characters, each going through a different arc. Gemma is increasingly consumed with her guilt, whilst Will struggles to cope with feelings of loss and his dwindling sanity. Further, Paul’s ingratiating nature masks something, and as the film turns from psychological drama to a final third detour to pot boiler, the truth of his motives are revealed.
The cast are very good. The very concept of losing a child is absolutely one of the most horrifying by its nature (and any parent could never bare the idea). We don’t merely see a standard delivery of grief, but Sinyor delves into the psychological effects and physical effects on the couples perceptions of reality. As Gemma, Jasmine Hyde is fantastic. It’s a complex role requiring absolute immersion and she gives it everything. Likewise Richard Flood is engrossing as he goes into meltdown, struggling to come to terms with not only the loss, but driven mad from still hearing his son’s voice. He evoked Michael Fassbender in a lot of ways which I suppose is high praise indeed. Simon Cotton’s (as Paul) façade and removal of it are also impeccably delivered.
The film is quite obviously shot on a shoestring. The majority of the budget has probably gone on sourcing the key locations, and they are effective for the story. The Lake District setting isolates the three and offers an intimate claustrophobic atmosphere. There are a few dips in logic here and there (for a woman suffering bouts of blindness, Gemma doesn’t half do a lot of driving in the film), and the film could do with losing 10 minutes that slow the pace a little.
In all, Sinyor creates an engrossing and psychologically complex film which never succumbs to melodrama. Aided by inspired performers, The Unseen is a gripping and intelligent, Hitchcock inspired thriller.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★