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The tagline states, "Only love can bring you to your senses." Well, your senses have to be pretty dulled to love At First Sight. On paper the story--based on the writings of medical writer extraordinaire Oliver Sacks (Awakenings)--is intriguing: a blind man regains sight after surgery yet can never connect with what he sees, including a lovely new girlfriend. Indeed, maybe blind was better. From such interesting stuff (and a talented cast) comes a tepid love story and an unconvincing drama.
Val Kilmer plays Virgil, a serene resort worker who plays hockey in the dark and is the best masseur this side of the Catskills. Onto his table comes Amy, a bone-weary NYC architect (Mira Sorvino) who cries the first time Virgil does his magic. Instead of a voyage into the world of blindness, Amy's first instinct is to take Virgil to an eye doctor who can restore sight (Bruce Davison). Virgil receives sight, crumbling the trust between him and Amy. The clichés start building up and by the time Amy is wooed by her ex-husband (Steven Weber), her boss no less, one's patience wears thin.
The medical curiosities of the story--Virgil can see an item but can't grasp what it is until he touches it--do not translate well on screen. The film's liveliest character is Nathan Lane as a teacher of the blind. A scene with Virgil that gets to the heart of his ailment is so filled with spontaneity, one wonders if it was scripted or simply Lane's own extemporaneous dialogue. After an admirable start as a director (Guilty by Suspicion), Oscar-winning producer Irwin Winkler has not been able to put cinematic highs or believable angst into his films (The Net, Night in the City). At First Sight may look good, but it is blind where it counts. --Doug Thomas
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