Movie Review: Blindness
The Charlotte Observer
Feel-good movies send you out of the theater cheered and uplifted, while feel-bad films make you ponder the unhappy state of the world. “Blindness” is a feel-nothing movie – a series of disconnected, implausible incidents that end as arbitrarily as they began, in an effort to inspire emotions the picture never justifies.
The waste of talent is international and spectacular: Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (from “City of God” and “The Constant Gardener”), Canadian writer Don McKellar (who adapted the novel by Portuguese Nobel-winner José Saramago), actors from Brazil (Alice Braga), Mexico (Gael García Bernal), Japan (Yusuke Iseya) and the United States (Julianne Moore, Danny Glover, Mark Ruffalo).
McKellar tried something this apocalyptic a decade ago, when he wrote and directed the more interesting “Last Night.” In that case, an unexplained event was ending human life on Earth, and we watched characters decide how to spend final moments.
In “Blindness,” an unexplained event makes people in an unidentified city sightless – but not everybody, as the airborne virus blinds an optometrist (Ruffalo) but spares his wife (Moore). She pretends to be blind so she can accompany him to a government center where the blind are quarantined and, inexplicably, treated like beasts. (Know what? Just add “inexplicably” to each sentence of this review.)
The blind people soon behave like subhumans, living in filth and excrement and refusing to share diminished rations of food. One man (Bernal) inexplicably locates a pistol – sorry, had to add that one myself – and declares himself king of the facility, hoarding grub and offering some to anyone who will pay him and his friends in money or jewelry. When those supplies run out, he trades food for sex with the women, one of whom gets beaten to death.
What could the point be? That humans become brutes when faced with adversity? That we never know the day or hour when God or fate will strike us down, like Job? The last scene, as preposterous and unexplained as the first, supports any interpretation you might care to apply.
The actors seem dispirited by this nonsense and give less than their best. Only Danny Glover, playing a melancholy man who adjusts philosophically to his condition, brings dignity to his undefined role.
Meirelles struggles to bring coherence and visual flair to the picture, shooting in burnt-out colors and wavering, milky images meant to put us inside characters' heads. These imaginative touches help, but he seems like an expert mortician trying to make a corpse appear lifelike. .