Visually impaired performer Skyler Davenport, known for their voice acting work, is a star in the making.
55 years ago, the Terence Young-directed, Audrey Hepburn-starring Wait Until Dark created the urtext for the home-invasion thriller subgenre, pitting a resourceful blind woman against murder-minded felons attempting to uncover illegal contraband. Skip past 2016’s Don’t Breathe (the less said about the execrable sequel, the better) and fast forward to 2022 and See for Me, visual artist and director Randall Okita’s (The Lockpicker) second feature, deftly upends and subverts decades-old tropes, signaling the arrival of a fresh, relatively new director to the genre who, on the basis of an incredibly strong visual sense, taut control over pacing, and the ability to elicit pitch-perfect performances from his cast, puts him on any “must-see” list.
And while Okita deserves considerable credit, star-in-the-making Skyler Davenport, a visually impaired performer, as Sophie, a former champion-level skier understandably embittered by the loss of her sight; co-star Jessica Parker Kennedy as Kelly, an Army veteran, obsessive gamer, and Sophie’s literal eyes via an ingenious phone app; and co-screenwriters Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue also deserve mention in any discussion of See For Me and why it works so incredibly well at delivering tension and suspense, chills and thrills, in equal measure.
When we first meet Sophie, she’s packing a small suitcase, hoping to make a quiet, conflict-free escape before her overprotective mother notices her impending departure. She fails, setting up a tense discussion that quickly spirals into an argument. Sophie’s mother suspects Sophie’s involvement in socially unapproved activities (e.g. OnlyFans) as an explanation for the size of her bank account. While Sophie counters with a less-than-believable explanation (generous tippers and employer pity), it’s enough to get her out of the house and into a cab, on her way to a house- and cat-sitting gig seemingly in the middle of nowhere, a McMansion in the middle of a literal woods that could easily house an extended, intergenerational family of 20.
Instead, it’s the home of Debra (Laura Vandervoort), a wealthy woman of uncertain means, and her cat. With a vast, labyrinthine home at her disposal and a semi-concerned Debra on her way to parts unknown, Sophie indulges in a little sight-seeing, courtesy of her felon-in-arms, Cam (Keaton Kaplan), a skier friend who also doubles as Sophie’s conscience. We soon learn that Sophie’s not above (or technically, below) a little theft here and here while house-sitting, usually of expensive items her wealthy patrons won’t miss anytime soon. Sophie is both an opportunist, willing to trade on her disability for sympathy and access, and far more resourceful than her disability suggests to the sighted world.
After inadvertently locking herself out of Debra’s McMansion, Sophie reaches out to Kelly via the “See For Me” phone app. What initially starts as a contentious relationship soon turns into something else: The arrival of three thieves—Ernie (Pascal Langdale), calm, cool, and calculating; Dave (Joe Pingue), an edgy, anxious safecracker; and Otis (George Tchortov), a stone-cold psychopath with murder perpetually on his mind—permanently shifts See For Me into home-invasion thriller mode. Sophie has to rely on a combination of guile, cunning, and spontaneity, along with whatever help Kelly can provide during moments when the thieves are elsewhere, to survive the night. Kelly’s first-person shooter experience comes in handy as Sophie becomes her real-life avatar (except for the “real” life-or-death stakes, of course).
Anchored by Davenport’s finely etched, modulated performance as the morally ambiguous, ethically challenged Sophie, See For Me could just as easily double as a sizzle or show reel for Davenport, a performer who should start receiving calls from producers the day after tomorrow. A similar argument applies to Okita, whose keen-eyed, well-developed grasp of cinematic language suggests a filmmaker ready for bigger, if not necessarily better, things behind the camera.
See For Me opens theatrically on Friday, January 7th. It’s also available to stream via major digital platforms.