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At First Sight (1999)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 15 January 1999 (USA)
A blind man has an operation to regain his sight at the urging of his girlfriend and must deal with the changes to his life.

Director:

Writers:

(story "To See and Not See") (as Oliver Sacks M.D.), (screenplay)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Margo Winkler ...
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Brett Robbins ...
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Jack Falk (as Willie Carpenter)
Charles Winkler ...
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Kelly Chapman ...
Susan (as Kelly Chapman Meyer)
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Storyline

A driven Manhattan architect, Amy, relaxes at a resort and falls for the masseur, Virgil, blind since age 3 and assisted by his spinster sister. He helps Amy hear and sense the world, giving her new spirit and a burst of creativity. Over the sister's objections, Amy takes Virgil to New York for new, radical surgery. He regains his sight. He's disoriented and must learn to process these new images. Finding his place in a seeing world strains his relation with Amy; his absent father wants to connect with him now that he can see; then, retinal disease threatens to undo the surgery. Can love survive, will he find his new place and his old tranquillity, can Amy accommodate limits? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Only Love Can Bring You To Your Senses. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for scenes involving sexuality and nudity, and for brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

15 January 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sight Unseen  »

Box Office

Budget:

$60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$8,444,321 (USA) (15 January 1999)

Gross:

$22,326,247 (USA) (26 March 1999)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Val Kilmer prepared for his role by studying with a sculptor friend of his in New Mexico who had lost his sight in Vietnam. At 49:30 (NTSC) he is admiring a sculpture when he first visit's Amy's flat. See more »

Goofs

When the doctors were operating on Virgil's eyes, you see his right eye closed as if he were sleeping normally. If they hadn't already operated on it, it would have been taped shut. If they had operated on it, it would have been covered with gauze which would be taped on his face. See more »

Quotes

Ethan: Are you blind?
Virgil: Yeah.
Ethan: Cool, see ya.
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Crazy Credits

At the start of the closing credits: Inspired by Dr. Oliver Sacks' true account of the experiences of Shirl and Barbara Jennings They are now married and living in Atlanta, Georgia Barbara continues to sculpt and although Shirl never regained his vision, he now paints pictures of his brief adventure in sight See more »

Connections

Referenced in Friends: The One with Rachel's Big Kiss (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

It Never Entered My Mind
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Performed by George Shearing
Courtesy of Concord Jazz, Inc.
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User Reviews

 
I believed in their love. I cared for their love. I feared for their love.
1 April 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I loved this movie. I adored it; I felt it was one of the more genuinely touching and real love stories that I had seen in a long, long time and even now, more than twenty-four hours since I saw it for the first, and I promise you, *not* last time, I am still haunted by its emotional power and how it drew me in with its passion. Inspired by a true story and starring a very real actor and a very real actress, "At First Sight" touched my heartstrings and yanked on them all the way through. It also contained a very humanistic touch apart from its romantic elements, one that I think everybody can appreciate in one way or another.

As the movie opens, Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino) an overworked architect is essentially booted out of her office and sent to the winter land countryside resort on a vacation by her co-workers. During her stay there, she befriends a blind therapist (Val Kilmer) with whom she begins a slowly-developing romantic bond. Despite his condition, they grow closer to each other and become passionately devoted, up to and past a surgery that they hope can restore his eyesight.

"At First Sight" is a fictionalized adaptation of Shirl and Barbara Jennings, a couple who passionately loved each other even though the former was completely blind. Their story was documented by Dr. Oliver Sacks. Adapted from his account by Steve Levitt and directed by Irwin Winkler, the movie becomes a powerfully dramatic love story that contains so much of that real-life passion from the people that inspired it.

It is easy to criticize "At First Sight" for being too conventional, too derivative of other Hollywood love stories. But I don't think this picture falls under those categories and those type of films, such as "Hope Floats." First of all, sometimes it's not about plot twists or breaking the mold. Sometimes, a movie can strike with just as much power (or more, as in this case) simply by utilizing those conventions and building upon them in a way that is fresh. And they do that here. The two central characters are very well-written, characterized as thinking, caring human beings who love and hunger for each other. A commendable move on the filmmakers' part was the casting. Instead of placing the typical romantic leads, who are more body than personality, they cast two very real performances. Gifted and good-looking as they are, Mr. Kilmer and Ms Sorvino, I've always felt, were very real. They aren't merely putting on a convincing act, they transition something very real into their performances and you can sense that. And as a defining example, I want to cite the scene in here that I usually gripe about: the sex scene. Whereas with most erotic scenes in movies, I tend to get the feeling that my time is being wasted, or that the director is losing faith in his own picture and using a cheap gimmick to stimulate my interest, I did not feel that here. There is a brief and very visceral erotic moment between Mr. Kilmer and Ms Sorvino - and I know people are going to start laughing at this point - and I did not get a negative reaction because this scene was not lustful. I wasn't thinking about the sex, I wasn't even thinking about Ms Sorvino's body. I was thinking about the passion and the love that was emanating from this scene. Here comes the one that I'm sure will get the biggest laugh yet.

I was not turned on; I was moved.

That's the core of what I loved this movie. Unlike so many of those contrived excuses of love stories that I see in so many movies, I *believed* in the love between these two characters. I was convinced they were two people who adored each other. I believed in their love, I cared for their love, I feared for their love. But what also makes the movie so good is the way the subject matter of blindness is treated. I imagine that for some, seeing or merely knowing about the subject matter of this movie can be a comforting reminder that lack of eyesight is not lack of humanity. For me, it was a reminder of just how thankful I am to not only have my eyesight, but my health. These two very authentic emotional elements stirred a great passion in me as I watched the film and kept me in play clear to the end.

Can I criticize anything in the movie? Well, yes, two short moments. One was a super-fast zoom upon Val Kilmer's eyes accompanied by a whooshing sound effect. The other was a jump cut montage of Ms Sorvino imitating emotions. These two scenes were a little out of place and seemed to be from other movies. But it's a two hour and nine minute movie and these two bits add up to, what, less than a minute? You do the math.

"At First Sight" is a wonderful movie with a strong emotional chord. Mr. Kilmer and Ms Sorvino are absolutely wonderful, as are the underrated Kelly McGillis as the jealous, troubled sister, Bruce Davison as the optimistic surgeon, Nathan Lane as the unorthodox and deliberately comical vision therapist, and Steven Weber as the lascivious fellow architect. It's an incredibly touching love story that I'm telling you, I cannot be satisfied with after just a first sight. I'm going to need at least two more before I could possibly even come close to being too familiar with this genuine little jewel of a motion picture.


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