This weeks Netflix Pick comes from the incredible mind of Joss Whedon. In Your Eyes is a strange concept executed almost perfectly. The movie was written by Joss Whedon and directed by Brin Hill. It stars, almost exclusively for the majority of it, Michael Stahl-David and Zoe Kazan.
Rebecca Porter (Zoe Kazan) and Dylan Kershaw (Michael Stahl-David) are completely different. They were born in different parts of the country, lead different lives, are from different social classes, and have never met. As kids there is some bleedthrough in the pair’s consciousness when their emotions reach heights. The glimpses are jarring and confusing but put aside as life moves on.
When Rebecca and Dylan reach adulthood their connection flares up, stronger than it ever has been. Fearing insanity or something else with a real world explanation the two decide to explore the connection and realize they aren’t crazy at all.
As high concept as romance stories go In Your Eyes isn’t the normal ‘boy meets girl.’ The two characters spend much of the movie hundreds, even thousands, of miles apart. The romantic angle is inevitable but not forced down the audience’s throat. It evolves, it develops, and it fits the story.
While a good part of the character development and establishments are done as separate entities it never feels like a disjointed project. There are a couple small loose threads here and there that could have been clipped before putting the final product on parade but all the big elements that require them, get answers. Rebecca’s relationship before becoming aware of Dylan was a big mystery to me. Some light is shed on the topic but for such a forward thinking strong written woman (a Whedon trait) the reasoning was… lame.
Why all these risky elements never feel broken, disjointed, long winded, or hollywood silly is directly related to the writing. Joss Whedon is best known for the sci-fi western Firefly, commanding the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Buffy. What all these projects have in common, along with all his lesser known (but still incredible) body of work is his care for characters. His attention to every slight detail in how to define a character you can care about.
In Your Eyes is a perfect example of Whedon mashing genres and making it work. The writing is incredible, which almost goes without say at this point. Zoe Kazan is adorable and engaging. She has her own defined personality and doesn’t fall into a stereotype. Michael Stahl-David’s Dylan is a little more typical to get the difference in character across but his performance doesn’t make it feel like something you’ve seen before. The two play fast and loose with the dialogue and script in all the best ways.
Hill and his team of cinematographers and editors did a fantastic job of blending the script with the talent and then taking the material and editing in such a way that people who don’t care for the typical romance driven movie can enjoy the story just the same. The editing has to be pointed out. The meat of the story is two people, in two locations, talking aloud. Putting it that way makes it seem ridiculous, of course, but that makes the fact that it is interesting all the more impressive.
The sci-fi element is presented very matter-of-factly. It’s like a Stephen King novel, only brief. You are into the characters. You have a good idea what’s to come. Everything else about the movie is so grounded in reality that when the weird happens you don’t bat an eye. This is marvelous storytelling that even the biggest science fiction nay-sayer wouldn’t have a problem with.
The one small complaint with any story that deals with things of this nature is that the characters derive comedy and awkward situations from ‘talking to themselves.’ We live in an age of technology. Wear a Bluetooth. Wear a headset. Hold a cellphone. Problem solved.
The ending leaves a few gaping questions. The characters act fast and move in drastic ways that change their lives. The change itself isn’t the problem. It’s the unanswered and very large details left un-dealt with. The movie ending is fully intact but the real ending got shuffled away somewhere. That may sit with you for a few days.
In Your Eyes is a charming lightweight movie that knows what it is and where it’s going. It never tries to be anything more and never falls short becoming anything else. The characters are fantastic and easily likable. The ending gets a little muddy but all in all its a fine film that slipped past since Whedon was working on much more high-profile things.