Retro Film Review: A Sight for Sore Eyes (Inquiétudes, 2003)

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The age-old adage about good literature often being poorly adapted into films, and vice versa, can be aptly applied to genre novels as well. The works of British mystery writer Ruth Rendell, lauded for the depth of her plots and characterisations, serve as a prime example. However, this richness often fails to translate effectively onto the screen, as the constraints of feature films tend to oversimplify plots or characters, resulting in adaptations that may veer towards incomprehensibility. An instance of this can be seen in A Sight for Sore Eyes, a 2003 French thriller directed by Gilles Bourdos.

The film centres around Bruno Keller (played by Grégoire Colin), an aspiring art student fixated on the notion of residing in a temple-like abode adorned with white walls. For Bruno, art serves as an escape from the childhood traumas embodied by his alcoholic father (played by Bernard Bloch) and uncle (played by Etienne Chicot). Following his father's demise, Bruno commits a heinous act by killing his uncle. While grappling with the aftermath and contemplating how to dispose of the body, he encounters Elise Gardet (played by Julie Ordon), a young woman whose past is scarred by the brutal murder of her mother eleven years prior. Elise, now under the care of her former therapist turned overprotective stepmother Brigitte (portrayed by Anne Catillon), embarks on a relationship with Bruno, even as Brigitte's paranoia spirals, leading her towards a detachment from reality.

While A Sight for Sore Eyes may receive acclaim for its production design, which plays a pivotal role in the protagonist's life, the film falls short in terms of narrative coherence. Despite the meticulous attention to creating striking visuals and environments that mirror Bruno and the other characters' descent into criminality and isolation, the storytelling falters. The plot progresses at a sluggish pace, with numerous subplots muddling the overall narrative. Viewers are required to invest heightened attention to grasp the unfolding events and the true essence of the characters. Some characters are introduced belatedly, hindering emotional investment and leaving abrupt shifts in their demeanour unexplained. Even stellar performances, including that of Swiss model Julie Ordon, fail to salvage the film's overall impact. After enduring over two hours of A Sight for Sore Eyes, many viewers are likely to find their eyes more fatigued than enlightened by the experience.

RATING: 3/10 (+)

(Note: Original version of the review is available here.)

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