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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Unseen movie review: when the see it/skip it recommendation is right in the title

The Unseen red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A portrait of grief and guilt that’s only mildly engaging, until it morphs into a wannabe psychological thriller and turns limp, laughable, and just plain icky.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Ah, so much sleek wealth! Ah, so little common sense! Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) and Will (Richard Flood) are a well-off English couple mourning the death of their small son in a terrible accident in their home. Initially, writer-director Gary Sinyor manages to limn a mildly affecting portrait of their guilt and grief: Gemma starts having panic attacks that blur her vision; Will begins to hear their son’s voice in his bedroom. Overall, though, they’re coping as well as can be expected, which isn’t terribly engaging dramatically, until mysterious Paul (Simon Cotton) enters their lives and disrupts their relationship entirely, which becomes increasingly implausible the longer they know him.

Even grading on the curve of absurdity that applies to many stories hoping to be considered “psychological thrillers,” The Unseen is risible, requiring as it does that apparently otherwise reasonable grownups behave in ways that make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and don’t even learn the obvious lessons that the movie itself has already smacked them with. Gemma, for instance, takes advice on anxiety medication she’s taking from Paul, a man she barely knows, a man who merely “used to be” a pharmacist, and clearly is a total creepazoid constantly overstepping appropriate boundaries. And when that goes badly wrong, she takes more such advice from him, and deploys it in a way that is entirely contrary to the kind, loving woman we’re meant to accept that she is.

Tangents arise out of nowhere, seemingly randomly, entirely unsupported by what we’ve seen before, even given the meandering plot, and what is intended as menacing escalation is simply icky. If only the same amount of attention had been expended on the script as was paid to the film’s visual gloss; the Lake District setting is the most appealing thing here. Limp and laughable, The Unseen deserves, alas, to live up to its title.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other releases.



red light 1 star

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The Unseen (2017) | directed by Gary Sinyor
UK/Ire release: Dec 15 2017

BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, threat)

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card (now updated for 2017’s trolls!) you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Where does this meme come from, the whole “happy couple let a stranger into their lives and things Go Bad” idea? It seems to show up as the default psychological thriller template for lazy writers…

  • I think many people are suspicious of happy couples, and foster a subconscious desire to make them as miserable as everyone else seems to be. :-)

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