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Blind: Major Films  
TitleAt First Sight (1997)
Alternative/Original Title
DisabilityBlind
CountryUSA
Length127
GenreTrue Story
Rating4
DirectorIrwin Winkler
CastVal Kilmer Mira Sorvino Kelly McGillis Steven Weber Nathan Lane Bruce Davison
NotesMira Sorvino plays Amy, an architect, who works her butt off in N.Y.C. but eventually takes a holiday in the mountains of New York State. There she meets and falls in love with Virgil the masseur (Kilmer). Virgil is blind and this causes no problems except from her sister (Kelly McGillis). But in the midst of a wonderful romance Amy looks into what causes Virgil's blindness and finds out that there is an operation which could bring back his sight (he lost it as a young boy, not at birth). At this point anyone clued into disability realises that this is a film not about blindness but seeing. Of course the title is something of a clue. Virgil of course has the operation and is able to see. The film then concentrates on that adjustment and less on the romance. Generally reviewers have found this disappointing and would rather the film got away from the strictures of following the factual story that this is. Thanks to Yvonne who has send the following review: Synopsis This story is based on a true story chronicled by Dr Oliver Sacks in his Book " An Anthropologist on Mars". Val Kilmer stars as Virgil, a masseur working in an upstate resort who has been blind since early childhood. He lives an independent and fulfilling, though somewhat sheltered life, in a small community with an overprotective sister played by Kelly McGinnis. Mira Sorvino co-stars as Amy, a New York City architect who goes to the resort to de-stress. Here she meets Virgil and they start a relationship. Amy finds out about a new treatment that may restore Virgil's sight. Initially, Virgil is against the idea because he does not consider his disability to be a problem. He also has a painful history when his father couldn't accept his blindness and tried every treatment on him. Eventually he comes round to the idea, perhaps because he wants to fit into Amy's world more. When his sight is restored there are major problems of visual agnosia (inability to process visual information in the brain) and the relationship becomes strained. He seeks advice from Phil, an unorthodox visual therapist played by Nathan Lane. As Virgil slowly adapts, to sight his relationship with Amy flourishes. When his sight starts to fail again, he leaves Amy and returns home, making the most of his last moments of sight and changing the dynamic of his relationship with his sister. The movie finishes with him, blind once more, having moved to New York to work in Phil's centre. Amy and he meet, they acknowledge the journey, learning and growing they have both done during their recent experiences. Comments This films strength is its informed portrayal of blindness. Val kilmer researched and plays the role well and shows Virgil to be a fully-rounded and happy person before the operation. He has a job, hobbies, a home and friends. This is a refreshing change from the stereotypical depiction of some poor helpless misfit who spends his time in lonely despair. Kilmer gives a more accurate study of a blind man with a welcome movement away from the usual blank eyed, rigid headed portrayal with no facial gestures. Virgil is shown to be a smiling, humorous man with eye and head movements more in keeping with a person with long term blindness. I was also pleased to see a more accurately portrayed use of a guide dog than is shown in some other films. It is the restoration of his sight that causes the problems. This raises important questions about able-bodied attitudes, perception and understanding of disability. The visual agnosia is demonstrated to the audience in an accessible way and brings attention to the important difference between blindness and perception. The film does have some weaknesses, one of which is the lack of chemistry between the two co-stars. Also it is common sense and medically well documented, that restoring eye function to a man who has never had sight, is not going to make him sighted. The visual agnosia is unexpected by everyone including the doctor and this is a major flaw. There are also some pretty stilted dialogue and metaphors about love, sight and relationship that are unnecessarily symbolic and leaden.

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