1994, R, 106 min. Directed by Michael Apted. Starring Madeleine Stowe, Aidan Quinn, James Remar, Peter Friedman, Laurie Metcalf, Bruce A. Young.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Jan. 28, 1994
Despite its fairly outlandish take on the old “beautiful blind woman in peril” school of romantic thrillers, Blink manages to weather its unbelievability and emerge a reasonable contender for entertainment thrills. With its well-written central character of an unstressed damsel in distress, its good lead performances from Stowe and Quinn, and its nifty visual effects and morphing techniques, Blink carries us through its narrative improbabilities and toward its inevitable unfolding. Though the formula is familiar, the character of Emma Brody (Stowe) is not. Blind since the age of five, Emma undergoes corneal transplants early in the film. The surgery restores her sight but things are still somewhat unfocused and she's subject to a quirky phenomenon called “retroactive vision.” Things her eyes see do not register until her brain brings them into focus at a later time. This allows the filmmakers to devise an elaborate visual strategy dubbed “Emmavision” that uses computer imaging to allow us to see the world through Emma's eyes -- usually blurry, fluctuating and lacking depth perception and occasionally in sudden sharp focus and delayed recognition. This premise provides the perfect narrative set-up for Emma to become a murder witness. Enter detective Hallstrom (Quinn) a stereotypically tough-talking Chicago cop with whom Emma, after a rocky beginning, inevitably becomes involved. The portrait of Emma is unusual for a woman in the movies, not to mention one with a visual disturbance. Emma is a fiddle player in a working Celtic rock band. (The music, which is performed by a real Chicago band, The Drovers, is one of Blink's most exciting elements.) She lives independently, has agonizing childhood memories, is sarcastic and impatient and far from perfect in personality. She is quite a welcome switch from the standard film portrayal of the fragile and somewhat ethereal blind child-woman in danger. Stowe, who is fast becoming one of our top actresses, no doubt brings a lot to the role. There is also a certifiable chemistry between Stowe and Quinn that makes their time together more exciting than it might otherwise be. Unfortunately, little more develops in the plot -- the detectives simply have to wait for Emma's retroactive vision to kick in while a few more murders are committed. Meanwhile, we witness a lot of Emmavision effects, romantic fumblings, a few red herrings and a dopey climax and conclusion. Director Apted (7 Up series, Coal Miner's Daughter) is turning into quite a versatile director and Blink seems to be his entry into the genre of thrillers. Although more time here needed to be spent on story development, Apted imbues it with a strong sense of place (in this case, Chicago-ness), which looks like it may be the director's strong suit. The film's moral? Beware organ transplants.