Eye of the Beholder

Directed by Stephan Elliott
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Patrick Bergin, k.d. lang, Jason Priestley, Geneviève Bujold.
MPAA Rating: R for some strong violence, sexuality, language and brief drug content.

Review by Matt Heffernan
January 30, 2000

Generally, when I review thrillers, I end up comparing them to the films of Hitchcock. Now more than ever I realize that such comparison is completely unfair, especially when the director has only done light comedies. You just can't expect Vertigo from the same source as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

An agent for the British Consulate in America, known only as "The Eye" (Ewan McGregor), is assigned to spy on the son of a diplomat. He witnesses his murder at the hands of a beautiful woman (Ashley Judd). He also has visions of his estranged daughter that tell him to follow this woman. So, he follows her across the country, abandoning his duties with the consulate.

In an airport, he watches as the woman meets a blind man named Alex Leonard (Patrick Bergin). They fly to his hometown of San Francisco, where he runs a winery. As the relationship between Alex and the woman blossoms, The Eye finds that he has become jealous.

Eye of the Beholder is based on the novel by Marc Behm, which was previously adapted for the 1983 French film Mortelle randonnée (Deadly Run). I haven't read this book, but I have to imagine that it was pretty good to be filmed twice. However, this adaptation is more bewildering than suspenseful. I was too busy trying to figure out which character was crazier to actually get involved with the plot (if it even had one).

There were a few things to keep my mind occupied, like some creative sound editing and the occasional surreal fantasy. There is also some real character development between the leads, and an interesting dynamic between them when they actually meet. But then it all ends on a note that had everybody in the theatre either staring at the screen in disbelief or looking around to see if anybody got it. It's not a bizarre twist like The Sixth Sense, or an ominous act of God like Magnolia. It's just not an ending at all.

So that's the first of thriller of the new millennium. The last one of the previous millennium -- The Talented Mr. Ripley -- was an intriguing throwback to The Master. Hopefully, it will take less than a thousand years to get back to that level.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Eye of the Beholder (1999)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Eye of the Beholder (2000) -- VHS
Eye of the Beholder (2000) -- DVD
Eye of the Beholder, a novel by Marc Behm -- Paperback

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan