The Sensation of Sight (review)

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The cinematography is lovely, all New England autumnal decay signifying the languishing of the soul. The performances are exquisite, especially David Strathairn (The Spiderwick Chronicles) as a schoolteacher so deeply impacted by tragedy that he descends into a kind of hoboesque fugue state, and Jane Adams (Little Children) as a single mother struggling to maintain her sense of self amidst the hardships of everyday life. So it’s a terrible pity that this ensemble drama about people hurting and coping in small-town America is so relentlessly dull — perhaps if it were an hour shorter it might not wear out its welcome so thoroughly. First-time writer-director Aaron J. Wiederspahn attempts to weave hints of a dreary fantasy through his all but plotless meditation on loss and grief — could this all be a dream? or a nightmare? — but the magical realism falls flat, too, and ends in a place that feel neither magical nor realistic. If Wiederspahn wanted us to feel as if we were mired in the same leaden purgatory as Strathairn’s sad sack, however, that he accomplished.

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