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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review of Fernando Meirelles' Blindness

This review originally appeared in Venus Zine.

Turning a blind eye
Blindness portrays hopelessness, but ends up just plain hopeless

By Melissa Silvestri
Published: October 21st, 2008 | 10:10pm

Blindness follows in the path of 28 Days Later and Children of Men, presenting a 2000's version of a dystopian society fallen apart in the din of madness and hopelessness. The film, based on the novel by José Saramago, begins on a strong premise: An epidemic of blindness affects the residents of an unnamed city, leading many to be quarantined and treated like lepers. Society completely falls apart.

The first victim of this epidemic is a Japanese man (Yusuke Iseya), who is struck blind while driving in traffic. He is assisted home by a wily young thief (Don McKellar), who also becomes blind. The blindness may or may not be infectious, since an eye doctor’s wife (Julianne Moore) is one of the few who does not become blind. She keeps her sight a secret, accompanying her husband (Mark Ruffalo) into a prison-turned-asylum for the newly blind, and being the den mother to all whom arrive, including a prostitute (Alice Braga), a child (Mitchell Nye), the Japanese man and his wife (Yoshino Kimura), the thief, and a myriad of other nameless characters. The film is intriguing as the doctor and his wife handle the new “patients,” giving people confidence and guidance in their strange new world of sightlessness.

The film takes a turn for the worse as more people are ushered in, leaving the prison a complete hellhole — the floor always wet, feces by the wall, random nudity and public copulating, and a stench that the audience can only imagine. A bartender (Gael García Bernal), frustrated by the doctor’s authoritarian stance over everybody, decides to take over in a radical new direction, withholding food until he can get what he wants out of people. The movie gets more depressing and dire in this second act, and is hard to sit through.

The third act seems as if the plot has lost its thread, and the characters are walking around aimlessly and confused, waiting to see if they regain their sight or not. The film could have been an interesting exercise in the epidemic of blindness affecting a whole city, but taking the “post-apocalyptic fall of society” theme and bringing the audience down in its muck is clichéd, boring, and doesn’t add anything new.

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