A surfeit of visual noodling and little effectively directed and written drama make up “All I See Is You,” a what-if gimmick posing as a dissection of a marriage where one spouse is blind, yet it’s the other half who’s the needy one.
A kind of anti-Nicholas Sparks movie, in which good intentions unintentionally expose cracks in a union, Marc Forster’s superficially trippy Thailand-set movie — peppered as it is with amorphous waves of shapes and colors meant to evoke the point of view of the sight-impaired — never plays like something that had to be made about the human condition. Think instead a short faux-experimental film unnecessarily stretched to the yawning point.
Blake Lively plays Gina, a woman rendered blind as a child after a car accident that killed her parents. She lives in Bangkok with her insurance-executive husband James (Jason Clarke) in an unassuming apartment, but it’s a good life. There’s the friendly exoticism of a foreign country, a comfortable physical intimacy they hope will one day bring a child into the world, and James’s attentiveness, which feels natural and helpful instead of oppressive.
But the promise of something better arises when Gina and James make an appointment to see a surgeon (Danny Huston), who reveals that an operation to restore sight in Gina’s right eye has a good chance of working. Buoyed by what could be, they go dancing at a club that night, but the first fissures start to show when James’s insecurities (“We look stupid”) harsh her buzz. Forcefully leading her out, Gina finds herself separated and alone in a crowded rush of revelers, and there’s the teensiest hint in the air that the brief abandonment was deliberate on James’s part.
When the operation proves successful, Gina discovers a textured world of people, places and objects that stoke a desire to assert herself more, and to jazz up her and James’s lives. No longer is their modest pad acceptable to her — she now wants a traditional Thai house in a picturesque village — nor the perceived drabness of her appearance, nor the couple’s unadventurous sex. On a trip to Spain to visit Gina’s sister Carla (Ahna O’Reilly, “Marshall”) and her macho, expressionistic-painter husband Ramon (Miquel Fernández) — a loudly coital couple who practically ooze naughtiness — James is further confronted by a sense of sexual inadequacy. (Being goaded into attending a live sex show doesn’t help.)
His sense of control ebbing by the minute, uptight James feels increasingly as if he won’t be enough for his less-dependent, awakened wife, and back home, when Gina dyes her hair blonde and dresses provocatively for a work event, James can’t help but openly express his discomfort, further driving a wedge between them.
Eventually things veer into domestic-thriller territory with the emergence of a handsome swim pal friend of Gina’s named Daniel (Wes Chatham, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay”) and a medical left turn. But that veer arrives with an obviousness that sparks a mental checklist in your head of scenes and moments you know are coming. Predictability doesn’t always indicate lack of suspense — Hitchcock’s whole point in the oft-referenced example is that you know there’s a ticking bomb under the table — but Forster seems hamstrung by the sudden emergence of plot mechanics as a window into emotion, and distinctly uninterested in burrowing into the psychology of Gina’s and James’s changed dynamic as a firm basis from which to ratchet up the creepiness.
It leaves the movie rushing through its rudimentary melodrama, while Forster sticks to his diet of phantasmagoric visuals (courtesy cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser, “After the Fall”) and choppily-edited scenes that he believes hold some impressionistic truth about relationships between men and women.
The shame is that interesting actors Lively and Clarke get the short end of the stick by having little more to do than wander around in an underwritten movie. (Forster is credited with the screenplay along with Sean Conway.) The stars are perfectly believable throughout — Lively’s shift from innocent to emboldened is commendable, and Clarke knows how to sell nervous, queasy energy — but servicing a thin scenario, not to mention fighting for screen time with Forster’s kaleidoscopic digressions, squanders the potential for something thornier. The movie’s ambitions are misguided, which makes it all too fuzzy of an experience.