The idea of a home invasion film where the victim has a disability isn’t exactly a new one. 2016 alone featured Mike Flanagan’s underrated Hush, which depicted a protagonist with hearing impairment having to defend her home against an intruder. That same year gave us the breakaway hit Don’t Breathe, which features a person with visual impairment also having to fend off a group of would-be thieves, though there’s a little more going on there than meets the eye, so to speak.
What sets Randall Okita’s new thriller See For Me apart from those films, though, is the casting of an actor (the outstanding Skyler Davenport) with an actual visual impairment in the lead role. This alone makes the film unique and imparts what could be a pretty by-the-numbers home invasion outing with an authenticity that is rare in the genre. Similarly to Don’t Breathe, though, there is a lot more to See For Me than you’d expect at first glance. The introduction of a lead character who is flawed and certainly not helpless, even in peril, is a step forward for representation of disabilities. This isn’t a film about an idealized disabled person with what is often portrayed as super powers. Instead, Davenport brings to life a deeply nuanced character that you sometimes have to struggle to root for, and that’s to See For Me’s benefit.
Sophie (Davenport) is a former pro skier turned house/pet-sitter who has become blind, and struggles with her perceived inability to participate in competition. Her fierce independence comes into direct conflict with both her newfound need for assistance to re-learn how to live her life, but also with her family and society’s insistence on coddling her. This conflict breeds an intense cynicism that she uses to her advantage. When Sophie takes a job watching over a house or pets for wealthy clients, she always takes the opportunity to burglarize the home. No one ever suspects that the blind girl would rob them, so in this way she turns polite society’s expectations of her against them.
On her latest assignment, Sophie finds herself locked out of the home she’s watching and is forced to go against her instincts and ask for help. This comes in the form of a new app called See For Me, which connects a visually-impaired person with a sighted “helper” who can use the blind person’s phone camera to assist. After a frustrating first attempt, Sophie is connected with Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), who helps to get Sophie back into the house. The two have a relatively pleasant interaction, which spurs Sophie to connect with Kelly again when a much more serious problem arises and intruders break into the home, thinking it unoccupied.
What follows is a series of tension-filled scenes, with Sophie navigating still-unfamiliar territory with Kelly talking her through it remotely. It allows for both Kennedy and Davenport to express and experience the tension of the same scene in different ways. It’s an uniquely effective format, and upends the usual home invasion movie beats by showing it from multiple perspectives – those of Sophie, Kelly, and the intruders themselves. The addition of first-person-shooter-obsessed Kelly, who seemingly views the experience and the task of assisting Sophie as a kind of game at first, while becoming more and more invested as the stakes raise, is particularly gripping. It takes you, as the viewer, on a similar journey where you might be a little detached from the story before it actively draws you in.
Not content to rest on it’s laurels, though, Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue’s script throws a number of twists and turns into See For Me’s story, making you question who’s really the hero here, if there even is one, and plays into the idea of Sophie’s flawed and cynical character perfectly. An appearance by the always-great Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy) in the second half of the film is a wonderful surprise, and he and Davenport make the most of their brief but electric chemistry.
Jordan Oram and Jackson Parrell’s cinematography has to do a certain amount of the heavy lifting in See For Me, making the giant modern house feel maze-like and disorienting. This mirrors the disorientation that Sophie has to feel by navigating it without the benefit of being able to see what’s in front of her, and also Kelly having to navigate the house using only the camera on Sophie’s phone. There’s always a compelling angle to find in the house, and the use of forced perspective and lighting that manages to show just enough works perfectly here while, even more than many other home invasion horrors, builds tension around every corner.
In See For Me, Randall Okita and Skyler Davenport have managed to put a fresh face on the home invasion thriller, and have made a great stride for representation while doing so. I hope there’s a whole lot more to come for both.