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by Susan Ryant

Home invasion thrillers are inherently terrifying for corrupting the private space designated most for comfort and safety. The terror compounds when the home dweller can’t fight back easily; their vulnerability exacerbates the suspense tenfold—vulnerabilities like blindness.  See for Me isn’t the first home invasion thriller to center around a blind character trying to evade the dangerous men that have broken inside. But it does use the familiar setup to thwart expectations.

Sophie ( Skyler Davenport ) was once a highly successful and renowned skier, but blindness seems to have cut her career short. The dashed dreams and aspirations bred resentment in Sophie, but she’s determined to find her way in the world through stubborn independence. When Sophie takes on a cat-sitting job at a secluded mansion, she even hides her blindness from the owner. Then three thieves break in, not realizing anyone is home. Sophie’s only means of defense and evasion comes from a phone app that allows an army vet and gamer, Kelly ( Jessica Parker Kennedy ), to operate remotely as her eyes.

See for Me,  directed by Randall Okita and written by Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue, uses a familiar home invasion setup to toy with conventions via moral complexity. Sophie’s blindness naturally enhances the suspense, but that’s not the focal point. It’s her bitterness that plays the most significant role in how this night of terror unfolds. The cat sitter holds little patience for everyone and barely tolerates accepting help unless there’s no other choice. It creates an intriguing dynamic between Sophie and her main ally, Kelly, a stranger. Both establish themselves as intelligent and adaptable characters, but Sophie wears her emotions and flaws on her sleeves, complicating an already tricky situation tenfold. The way Sophie finds workarounds to the obstacles that emerge shifts the narrative in drastic, captivating ways.

Davenport, a visually impaired actor making their feature film debut, has a tough job of instilling and maintaining rooting interest. Sophie is a flawed lead protagonist that often lashes out or makes questionable choices. Sophie’s budding relationship with Kelly helps offset any frustrations, as it humanizes them both. Kennedy impresses with an assured yet remote performance, wholly removed from the rest of the cast.

Okita stages this home invasion thriller exceptionally well to maximize the thrills. The luxury lodge nestled in the woods, mid-winter, becomes a character in itself, with Okita using this space to maximize the suspense at every opportunity. Wide angles capture both Sophie and the thieves as they sneak around, one trying to find the other yet often unaware just how close either are to detection. Okita never ceases to find distinct angles or keep things visually interesting, even when the house’s layout seems to shrink in scope. The snowy setting and the disconcerting sound design contribute to the isolated atmosphere.

While  See for Me  does keep you guessing, it ultimately doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s a simple story that’s stunningly executed. The home invasion is a thrilling means for Sophie to work through her inner demons, of which she has many. It perhaps wraps up a bit too tidily, but Sophie’s flaws and the moral complications they create add distinct layers to this well-crafted and propulsive thriller.

See for Me is now available on VOD outlets.

Editor’s Note: This Tribeca review was originally published on June 10, 2021.