Review: 'Love is Blind' Is A Blurry And Overcrowded Misstep

When making art, killing your darlings can be hard to do. Sometimes the ideas are just too good and you are too proud of them to condense for the greater good of the piece. Love is Blind, a new romantic independent film starring newcomer Shannon Tarbet, Aidan Turner, Benjamin Walker, Matthew Broderick, and Chloe Sevigny, is the perfect example of what can happen when too many ideas hit the screen. Written by Jennifer Schuur and directed by Monty Whitebloom and Andy Delaney, Love is Blind is loses sight of its point in the midst of its many avant-garde yet cliched troupes. 

Bookended by trite and convoluted voiceover, Love is Blind tells the story of Bess (Shannon Tarbet), a young woman who lives with her father (Matthew Broderick) in a small town. She is unable to physically see her mother (Chloe Sevigny), thinking she is dead, despite her father’s and other people’s daily interactions with her. Both mother and daughter are tired of each other, one fed up with being ignored by her child, the other fed up being told that her mother is alive. To process her father’s Parkinson’s disease and her own mental blockage, Bess attends therapy with Farmer Walker, a doctoral candidate on the spectrum, who is experimenting with unconventional therapy methods and patient/doctor relationship boundaries. As she tries to reconcile with her father’s disease and navigate life with the frustration of selective vision, Bess unknowingly crosses paths with Russell Hank (Aidan Turner), a deeply depressed demolition man. 

Turner, known for The Hobbit series and that PBS show Poldark where excruciatingly pretty people with long flowing hair stare out over cliffs into the sea and make out with each other, provides a consistent, maybe even a decent performance if not for his incessant voiceover that is cliché to the cliched power. He’s depressed, unsure about his existence, wanting to die, wanting to become invisible. His prayers are answered when Bess doesn’t seem to see him, the only other person besides her mother that she can’t see. Farmer suggests that Bess talk to the imaginary “Russell.” Russell then is given permission to follow her around, falling in love with her in the process. Soon the desire to be seen and to see what might not be there becomes unbearable, forcing both Bess and Russell to comfort their demons. 

Visually there are some moments that work. At one moment Russell picks up Bess, and as we see it from her perspective, it appears that she is floating. Chloe Sevigny appears and reappears during her scenes depending on the vantage point. At one point, the front of a building falls around Russell, ala Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr. However, the plot and dialogue are all over the place. The dialogue is abrupt and not subtle. Characters bring up random things in the middle of scenes and they don’t really talk or act like human beings. Literally after meeting Russell, Farmer steals his half-eaten burger and eats it. Most of the film’s major issues lie with the characterization of Farmer. He’s overly attached to Bess, stepping over professional boundaries physically and sexually. It clouds the film and would be much better off and more effective if it wasn’t included. 
Love is Blind is insulting but with good intentions. It’s insulting to those suffering from mental illness, insulting to patient/therapist relationships everywhere, the autism spectrum storyline doesn’t seem thought out and a shallow caricature of a complex disorder. Though it tries to capture life on the spectrum or with clinical depression, it fails to show them as anything more than quirky broken people with very few redeeming qualities. Shannon Tarbet’s performance gives off more manic-pixie-sex-object than human-woman with deep-rooted familiar issues, not understanding her own reality. The most interesting character, Bess’s mother, isn’t explored fully, wasting Chloe Sevigny's performance. 

While the selective vision conceit is interesting enough, it's not enough to save the film from trying and failing to fulfill every single indie film troupe; the overworked obsessive, the depressed young man, the manic pixie dream girl, stop motion paper crane scene, black and white scenes to indicate the past, random dance scene. The film feels like a cross between a film’s student thesis film and an alien’s perception of what movie’s should be. That being said it takes a lot of work to make a movie, people put just as much work into the crappy ones that they do into the critically acclaimed ones. With Love is Blind, it could be a case of too much going on in one film, it could be that the filmmakers didn’t know how to kill their darlings and edit some of these ideas down. Clearly, the effort was there, it's just a shame that the result is not a cohesive vision.

1.5 out of 5