At First Sight (1999)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  15 January 1999 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 10,876 users   Metascore: 40/100
Reviews: 105 user | 55 critic | 21 from

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.



(story) (as Oliver Sacks M.D.) , (screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Margo Winkler ...
Brett Robbins ...
Jack Falk (as Willie Carpenter)
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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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Science gave him sight. She gave him vision. See more »


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:





Release Date:

15 January 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sight Unseen  »

Box Office


$60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

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


ESP 109,523,700 (Spain) (29 June 2001)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


There have been several references to Val Kilmer in the hit sitcom Friends (1994) with the most notable being when Ross rented Val Kilmer's jacket that he wore to the 'At First Sight' premiere. See more »


At the end of the movie Virgil and Amy walk away and Virgil is letting his new guide dog lead him. The guide dog walks straight past the curbside obstacle without hesitation. No working guide dog would have missed this obstacle, it is too inbred during their training. Missing an obstacle of this magnitude would have called for, at the very least, a firm word of caution if not a subtle leash correction. The guide dog would have also stopped to check for traffic as Virgil did not seem to be paying attention. See more »


Virgil: Maybe I'm not meant to see.
See more »

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 »


References Kung Fu (1972) See more »


Mack The Knife
from "The Threepenny Opera"
Music by Kurt Weill
German Lyrics by Bertolt Brecht
English lyrics by Marc Blitzstein
Produced by Joel Moss
Performed by Diana Krall
Diana Krall appears courtesy of Impulse/GRP Records
See more »

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User Reviews

a good movie with revealing insights
18 January 1999 | by (Boardman, Ohio) – See all my reviews

At First Sight was a film with two stories to tell. The first was a love story and the second about a blind young man who has a chance to regain his sight. For some reason the two stories both separately compelling did not seem to mesh well--or as well as I expected. I'm not sure whether it was the writing or the directing or just me. With that said I thought the per- formances were outstanding. Ms. Sorvino, as the love interest, and Ms. McGillis, as the older sister who helped and cared for him were both good, but this was Mr. Kilmer's movie. He was EXCELLENT. He made me realize that a handicap is often more that of others than the supposedly handicapped. I suppose I knew this but Mr. Kilmer's performance brought it to conscio usness. He also portrayed well the confusion and bewilderment of entering what most people would consider the "normal" easy world of sightedness. I truly enjoyed the scenes where he displayed genuine innocence of adjusting to his new world. I don't want to be specific here. He showed great dimension to make me realize that sighted or not he was a complete person. There is much to be appreciated about this movie and everyone can learn from it. On the basis that this is a true and important story and Mr. Kilmer's performance---three plus stars.

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