What would you do if you were blind and suddenly regained your sight? Director Ido Fluk‘s drama inspires a number of questions for its audience, particularly around their own reactions in this hypothetical situation. By allowing viewers to see through the eyes of its protagonist, “The Ticket” gives them deeper insight into the experience of living as a blind person, as well as what choices they might make if given a new chance at life.
Blind since childhood, James (Dan Stevens) awakens one morning to discover that his sight is slowly coming back to him. A pituitary tumor has begun shrinking, and he is able to see his wife Sam (Malin Akerman) and son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) for the first time. His joy at his new opportunities quickly grows into a hunger for more. He outgrows his job as a telemarketer at a realtor, alongside blind employees like his friend Bob (Oliver Platt), and his ambitions take him toward a management position. His wife begins to put more emphasis on her appearance, wearing lipstick and dresses when she realizes that her husband can now see her. But his eyes begin to wander elsewhere, toward coworker Jessica (Kerry Bishé), and he wonders what else might be out there in his new life with sight.
“The Ticket” offers a unique representation of blindness through some unexpectedly beautiful cinematography and graphics. Seeing through James’ eyes gives the picture far more depth than if he were merely describing his evolving situation. We experience full blindness with him during the opening credits, as we hear James speaking in voiceover to his wife and son. Shards of light go through an iris as names appear and disappear on screen. It’s as dynamic and interesting as a Marvel or Bond credit sequence, but far more low key. Cinematographer Zachary Galler offers gorgeous images throughout the film, playing with light and focus in a manner that works both visually and thematically.
James’ shift into a greed-driven and appearance-obsessed man after he regains his sight happens a bit too quickly, without much in the way of motivation to explain the big shift in his values. Rather than responding with gratitude for the unearned gift he receives, he begins to behave as though he deserves more in every aspect of his life. Even though he recites a daily prayer both before and after his change, he doesn’t see his newfound sight as evidence of divine grace. Though we don’t get to know him before the event, this turn in personality doesn’t seem fully credible. The indications that his perspective has changed aren’t exactly subtle either, from his newfound love of treadmill running and his obvious ogling of his colleague’s cleavage.
With that in mind, “The Ticket” exists better as a parable than as a true-to-life drama. From the story James tells that inspires the film’s title to frequent scenes in church, there’s an emphasis on spirituality and the role belief plays. The recovery of James’ sight is ostensibly a miracle, even if it’s one that can be explained by science. These elements aren’t always subtle, but what holds the movie together beyond its questions and its cinematic depiction of blindness is a credible performance from Stevens. He charmingly delivers speeches that have echoes of a preacher’s sermons, but he also shares James’ pain and doubt at various points throughout the narrative. His voice cracks as he recites a familiar prayer, and the actor’s expressiveness goes a long away in highlighting the inner workings of the character.
However, playing as a parable, it does mean there is less emotional attachment to the characters and their experiences. Though the performances (especially from Stevens and in the fine supporting turn from the always-welcome Platt) ring true, the film creates an emotional distance that makes it challenging to fully connect with the story.
Faith and belief are so rarely part of secular cinema that it’s refreshing to see a small drama asking big questions that are often ignored. It examines the concept of grace and how our response to it can prove us ever less worthy of receiving the original gift. “The Ticket” isn’t always successful in its search for answers to those questions, but it provokes a dialogue with the viewer against the backdrop of impressive visuals and excellent performances. [B-]