Gas station clerk Sam receives a call from Emily, a nearly blind woman who is running from her murderous ex in the woods. Emily must survive the ordeal with Sam being her eyes from afar using a video call.
Unseen is a neat little thriller with the most interesting twist: the blind person escaping the killer most rely on the ”eyes” of a cellphone video link several states away.
Yoko Okumura’s debut film uses split screens both for tension and connection. The two must trust and depend on each other if the blind person, Emily(Midori Francis) is to survive. The two deliver a sense of comfort. For most of the movie you see this being formed in actual real time side by side shots. The two are almost conjoined twins, feeling and reacting to each other’s perils, little joys and triumphs.
They both exist in a high state of chaos and threat which is constantly being flipped. The eyes on the other side are Sam’s (Jolene Purdy), a gas station cashier, who must deal with the absurdity of life in the form of an escalating Karen attack- played to the comic hilt by Missi Pyle.
The screen chemistry between Francis and Purdy is very kinetic. It allows them to create the believability that Unseen requires. These two were meant to save each other. Their bond never turns treacly. They feel like old friends who are constantly uplifting and motivating each other, and act courageously for the other when the moment arrives.
Visually Emily and Sam seems to be of the same Asian ethnicity, vaguely Japanese by last name. They both have complicated relationship with their mother’s that are trying to be bridged.
Emily’s realistic, bleak, blue-black wilderness setting is contrasted with Sam’s faux nature backwoods gas station with gator décor. It connects and defines them in significant visual and thematic ways.
Okamura distinguishes Unseen from other phone thrillers like Cellular and Phone Booth by upping the absurdity (mainly on Sam’s side) and tension, hoping the audience will go along with it. I definitely did. The emotional core of the movie was always paramount over the terror- and that goes a long way to ignoring the logic plot holes. It all makes Unseen a gratifying watch.
Unseen gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime.
- Salvatore Cardoni
- Brian Rawlins
- Paige Pemberton
- Paul Uddo
- March 7, 2023(United States)