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Blake Lively doesn’t like what she sees in this artsy psycho-drama

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All I See Is You
Starring Blake Lively & Jason Clarke
Directed by Marc Forester
In Theaters Oct. 27, 2017

The last time we saw Blake Lively, she was battling a monster shark in The Shallows.

In her new movie, she’s fighting the undertow of a collapsing marriage as a blind woman who begins to see a lot of things differently when her sight is restored.

The former Gossip Girl actress plays Gina, who lost her sight in a car crash that claimed the lives her parents years ago. Now living in Bangkok with her husband, James (Jason Clarke), an international insurance businessman, she’s encouraged when a doctor (Danny Houston) tells her she’s a candidate for an experimental cornea transplant and reconstructive eye surgery.

When Gina begins to see again, and her vision becomes clearer day by day, what she sees at first delights her—a spectrum of colors, faces to put with familiar voices, and little mundane details that get easily taken for granted by people with sight.

“I’d forgotten what my name looked like,” she says, pausing to reflect on the letters G-I-N-A spelled out on a sign welcoming her home from the hospital.

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But her restored vision also reveals the cracks in her marriage. And those cracks are what director Marc Forester probes in this artsy psycho-drama about control, attraction, dependence, micro-aggression, jealousy, dominance, deviousness, secrets and sabotage.

James obviously loves Gina, but it’s clear he now feels threatened by her. He subtly criticizes the way she dresses, asking her to not show so much skin, especially around other guys. And the pressure’s on: They’ve been trying to get pregnant, unsuccessfully. The Spanish firebrand husband (Miquel Fernández) of Gina’s sister ribs James, asking if he’s worried that Gina might leave him for a better-looking, more virile man.

James doesn’t exactly warm to the idea when Gina brings home a friend’s dog to save it from being put down. When James berates it for pooping and peeing on the floor, Gina defends the poor pooch—because James forgot to take it outside for a walk.

And so it goes: The more Gina sees, the less she likes. And the less she likes James, especially—and the more James comes to resent her and miss the way “things used to be,” when Gina couldn’t see, when she depended on him, when he was her world, when she made him feel more like a man, an alpha male.

Ahna O’Reilly (from The Help and TV’s Kingdom) plays Gina’s sister, Carla. Yvonne Strahovski (who stars in the Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale) pops in for a couple of scenes, suggesting that an initially bigger role was edited down to practically nothing. Wes Chatum (Castor from The Hunger Games franchise) plays a hunky, hot, kind-hearted dog owner who… well, he’s not James.

For director Foster, who’s done the zombie apocalypse with Brad Pitt (World War Z) and globetrotted with James Bond (Quantum of Solace), this movie seems like a downshift into indie-arthouse, domestic-drama territory. A dead bird, the rotting cow and repeated shots of fish in the tank—we get it, Gina’s eyes have been opened, but she’s feeling more contained, constrained, stifled and lifeless than ever.

There are explosively beautiful visuals, too, as Gina sees the world again, anew, soaking it all in. At one point, James asks her what she wants to do next, what she wants to see. “More colors,” she says.

The story is a slow-burn simmer that never feels in a rush. It has an almost Hitchcock-ian rhythm as it unfolds, especially as things get twisted and toxic. Foster’s collaborator on the screenplay, Sean Conway, was a writer/director for the gritty Showtime crime drama Ray Donovan.

“You look different than what I had in my head,” Gina tells James when she first comes out of surgery, regaining the sight she had been without for over a decade.

How would the world—specifically your world—look different if your long-impaired vision was suddenly improved? Is our imagination sometimes better than what we see? All I See Is You makes you think about that.

Throughout the movie, Gina works on a song with a guitar. She’ll eventually perform it in full, where its lyrics—about jumping rope, swimming, seeing, loving and living—take on extra emotional heft and give added pang to the ending.

Perhaps Blake Lively was thinking, when she sang, about her last movie, about swimming with—and away from—that great white shark that wanted her for its next meal.

There’s no shark in All You See Is Me, but this fierce little marital fable still draws blood.

In theaters Oct. 27, 2017

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