{mosimage}Blindness (Rated R) Four Stars

    If Blindness (120 minutes) conveys anything, it is that the ability to see atrocities does not necessarily translate to a willingness to stop atrocities.
    Yes, like many other end-of-the-world movies, this is a shockingly violent film that attempts to explore the fragility of civilization. Yes, there is sexual violence against women, a theme that appears far too often in this kind of movie. Yes, there is an overwhelming amount of degradation, and blood. Certainly, the day-to-day life of the blind is not depicted in a realistic or positive way. In fact, the only sighted character is several times treated as morally superior and more functional than all the blind around her. Even so, there is something compelling about it.
    I am accustomed to enjoying films that others find repulsive or without redeeming social value, but in this case so many overly critical reviewers seem to have missed the forest for the trees, failing to appreciate the moral stance of the film amidst all the horror.
    An unnamed city in an unspecified location experiences a medically improbable epidemic of sudden blindness. The first man affected (Yusuke Iseya) spreads the affliction to his wife and several others, who themselves pass the blindness along to those they meet. His doctor (Mark Ruffalo) is infected, and along with others he is quarantined in a dilapidated, inadequately provisioned, quarantine facility. The doctor’s wife (Julianne Moore) has accompanied him despite her seeming immunity to the problem, and she is s silent witness as criminals prey on the weak. The doctor has increasing difficulty coping with his loss of sight and his wife’s new role as his caretaker, and his wife is unable to act decisively without exposing herself to the overwhelming demands of the sightless masses.
    Powerful secondary roles include the bartender (Gael Garcia Bernal), the woman with dark glasses (Alice Braga), and the man with eye patch (Danny Glover), all of whom deliver excellent characterization even with the absence of back story. Some of the quarantined eventually escape the facility, only to walk into a changed world where the only ones they can depend on are each other.   
    What makes this particular movie stand out is the use of a visual medium to convey the widespread lack of sight in its protagonists. The camera manipulates us, nothing can be taken for granted, and the audience is constantly reminded that the ability to see is a fragile gift, easily lost. A boy stumbles, the film flickers, and only then do we see the table he fell over. Director Fernando Meirelles delivers a horror movie that actually will give you nightmares, because he is using a visual style that will trick you into lingering looks at horrible things we should not want to see. In short, the cinematography, the use of color and the use of darkness is incredibly cool.
    Let me confess, there are plot holes. It is a neat idea to present a film without providing any history or even names for the main characters, but it also leaves many questions unanswered. Although it is nice to see an international cast, failure to provide a specific location for the movie results in a lack of audience connection to the story. And the plot resolution, although providing a much needed catharsis, is far too long in coming. Overall, a challenging film that intelligently re-imagines the science fiction class, Day of the Triffids.

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