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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/12/99

At First Sight
1999 (1999) - MGM

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

At First Sight Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/D

Specs and Features

129 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, theatrical trailer, scene access (44 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French, Close Captioned

Virgil Adamson's only memory of having seen something, is of a cloud that he could touch. It's no accident that he thinks of touch associated with the image - touch is very important in his life. Virgil (played by Val Kilmer) lost his sight when he was three. Having also lost his mother, and been abandoned by his father, he's spent most of his life growing up in a very safe little upstate New York town, being watched over by his older sister (Kelly McGillis). And, sightless though he may be, he's very good at touch - so good that he works as a masseuse at a local spa.

Virgil's world hasn't changed much - everything's just the way it always is... until he meets Amy (played by Mira Sorvino), a stressed-out New York City architect at the end of her creative rope. Amy's signed up for his massage, and when she breaks down crying on his table during the session, he shows her gentle compassion that she's never known. Amy is touched by this, and begins falling for Virgil, without realizing he's blind. When she finally does find out, she's uncertain as to how to act, but Virgil becomes her guide, and shows her the world in a way she's never seen it before.

Before long, the two have fallen deeply for each other, but no one around them seems to approve, or believe they have a chance. Virgil's sister is worried that Amy's influence will make Virgil try things he's not capable of, and Amy's colleges think she'll simply end up a glorified baby-sitter. Amy, however, has a plan - she's found a doctor who believes that he can restore Virgil's sight. But when Virgil does indeed get his sight back, there's a problem - how can he make sense of the world through images, when he only understands it by touch?

Based on a true story, At First Sight depicts two people, who help each other gain a new perspective on the world - new sight found, both literally and figuratively. I have to say, that I had wanted to see this film when it was in theaters, but missed it. So did lots of people apparently, because it disappeared quickly. But I've always been a big fan of Val Kilmer, who unfortunately made a string of VERY bad career choices for a while there. And there's something about Mira Sorvino that I dig in a film... except when she's being chased by giant sewer bugs (Mimic), or blasting at bad guys with a .44 Magnum (The Replacement Killers). I was glad to see them both choose a decent project for a change, and I was very happy for the chance to finally be able to catch it on DVD.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, the film can be a bit trite. As romances go, it's pretty standard fare. And the sight-regained plot started a bit too soon - before I had really become invested enough in either character to care, much less buy into their romance. But you know what? By the end of the film, I was invested, I did care, and I did buy into it. Both Kilmer and Sorvino turn in pretty solid performances, and though I found McGillis' character annoying, Nathan Lane has a couple of funny moments. At First Sight isn't really burning with passion, but there's just enough heat to make a nice little fire to warm your hands on. And there was one very romantic moment, as Amy explains what she sees in Virgil to a friend, early in the film. "When he touches me, I feel like he does it to know me better, not to get something from me," she says wistfully. "And even though he doesn't know what I look like, I feel like he really knows who I am." Is that romantic or what? What can I say? I'm a sucker for such moments.

As DVDs go, MGM has given us a pretty good one here. The picture quality is very good, in both anamorphic widescreen, and full frame versions. Color accuracy, contrast and detail are all generally excellent. And the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound provides good ambience, and clear dialogue. You don't get too much rear channel use, or pounding bass, but why would you want or need either in a film like this? The audio is what it is here - dialogue and light Mark Isham music - and it works. There's not really much else on the disc, other than a theatrical trailer, but that's fine with me. I'm not sure what else would have enhanced the experience of this film anyway.

All in all, At First Sight worked for me. I can't really explain it more than I have - that's just the way it is. There's no super-steamy sex scenes, no You've Got Mail cute-factor. But I found myself caring in the end, which I didn't expect. It snuck up on me. Give it a shot, and you might just find that it sneaks up on you too.

Bill Hunt
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