See for Me: Finally, We’re on the Right Track
by Danielle McCann and Chris Danielsen
See for Me is a new thriller in which a young blind woman, played by blind, autistic, and nonbinary actor Skyler Davenport in their feature film debut, takes a house-sitting job in an isolated mansion. When three intruders break in, the protagonist, Sophie, uses an app called See for Me to get help from a gamer named Kelly. (The See for Me app is a fictional version of a visual interpreting service.) The premise will probably (understandably) make many readers apprehensive, but read on to find out why our reviewers think this movie is well worth watching. Be aware, though, that it isn’t family-friendly viewing. The film is rated R and contains strong language and violence.
Danielle: Since the National Federation of the Blind began to push for screen production companies to stop casting sighted people to #LetUsPlayUs, I was hopeful that they would listen and finally let blind people represent ourselves in TV and film. Then, In the Dark came out, and I was not only disappointed, but it felt cringy to know that, once again, the world would be shown all sorts of misconceptions of what blind people are like, because the industry couldn’t be bothered to cast authentically. Fast forward a couple of years and there has been some progress. In particular, Netflix understood the assignment and cast a blind person in You.* It has to be noted that the standout reason, in my opinion, that this is a big deal is because the character’s blindness has very little to do with the plot. He just happens to be blind; that’s it. So when See for Me appeared on my Apple TV, I was optimistic, and it did not disappoint.
While the plot of See for Me does revolve around Sophie’s blindness, it does not seek to make her a myth, miracle, or magical. She’s actually kind of a jerk, and I really like seeing that because it breaks down the idea that blind people are happy, good, cheerful, and perfectly content all of the time. Without giving too much of the story away, I also appreciate how most everyone in the film pauses to acknowledge the blindness, but they don’t let it sway them from their original intent. The only person I have a hard time with is Sophie’s mom, because she hovers and worries way too much, but at Sophie’s age, I had problems with my own mom for the same reasons. I love the teamwork between Sophie and Kelly, because again, the blindness is a factor in the equation, but it is not the sum of all parts. There are a few things that Sophie does in the movie that really feel genuine, and I think that’s because the actor is blind so these movements and mannerisms are very natural to them. Where the lead in In the Dark is often overexaggerated in her presence and feels clunky, Sophie’s performance is smooth.
The end of the movie is great because there’s a tiny twist to how we get there, and it goes to show that blind people aren’t always who society has played us up to be. There is no inspirational hook here. It’s just a really good film with a really great actor in the lead role.
Chris: There was a time when the blind community collectively worried about blind people being portrayed as jerks or villains, even as we cringed at the sugary saintliness that some blind characters displayed. But See for Me strikes the right balance. It’s definitely true that Sophie is hard to like at first. Most of her problem is that she’s in the stage of adjustment to blindness that Dr. Jernigan called rebellious independence. She is reluctant to accept help from anyone. She’s also bitter about her situation, so she uses her blindness to justify theft from the people who hire her to house-sit (they would never suspect a blind girl, would they?) This sounds contradictory, but the character was believable to me for exactly that reason. Fortunately, the movie is smart enough to avoid becoming a cheap thrill ride with a sappy ending about a blind person learning that it’s okay to accept help sometimes. It’s hard to say more than that without spoiling the plot, but this is most definitely not a film in which a sighted savior rescues a helpless blind woman through the miracle of technology. Within the confines of being a fast-paced thriller, it’s a complex story about two complex characters navigating a frightening and unpredictable situation. There are things to nitpick (no Braille, little independent cane travel), but I can honestly say that See for Me has one of the most authentic portrayals of a blind character that I have seen in a movie. While watching it, I never felt as if either the capacity of blind people or my intelligence were being insulted.
Overall, we think this is a solid offering from the film industry. They’ve now seen for themselves how easy it is to cast blind people. See for Me is available to rent or buy on Apple TV; audio description is available. Have you watched it or do you plan to check out this film? We’d love to hear what others think.
* Two blind actors will also make their screen debut later this year in Netflix’s adaptation of the novel All the Light We Cannot See.