Studio: Spotlight Pictures
Director: Geoff Redknap
Writer: Geoff Redknap
Producer: Hans Dayal, Katie Weekley
Stars: Aden Young, Camille Sullivan, Julia Sarah Stone, Ben Cotton, Max Chadburn, Alison Araya, Maxwell Haynes, Eugene Lipinski, Scott Lyster
An estranged family man gradually turning invisible becomes a black market courier in order to reconnect with his daughter.
Bob Langmore’s long-ago life as a promising NHL protégé is a dimming memory. Behind his pickup truck visor rests a yellowing photo of estranged daughter Eva, only slightly less weathered than the crumbling sports card she keeps as a memento of dad. Stricken with a most unusual affliction, Bob said little when he left his family and retreated into obscurity as an unassuming mill worker in a remote logging town. Ever since, fading and disappearing have remained constant themes hanging overhead.
Impossibly, the strange sickness plaguing Bob is a slow decline into literal invisibility. This isn’t a romanticized fantasy from H.G. Wells’ pen, however. This is a socially alienating and physically debilitating metamorphosis that Bob has battled alone for eight years.
A strategically-placed bandage here. A disease-slowing drug there. Try as he might to stave off the inevitable, time has now come for Bob’s curse to fully collect.
Seeing himself as a burden to his world, Bob is ready to end his life on terms of his choosing. Then his ex Darlene calls with news of daughter Eva’s troubles, and Bob decides to first make one final attempt at being a father. An uneasy alliance with a black market hood helps Bob make it back home. What keeps Bob there is a shocking discovery made when Eva disappears in the same place where his own father vanished many years earlier.
Despite the “invisible man” element, and additional IMDB classification of horror, it is important to realize that “The Unseen” is not Saturday matinee science-fiction in the vein of a Universal Monster classic or Kevin Bacon thriller. “The Unseen” is a character drama about a failed family man metaphorically struggling to see himself in spite of a physical appearance crumbling in tandem with personal perception of his identity. It may not be as heady as that summation suggests, but the movie is more internally focused on emotional introspection than it is externally interested in energetic action or elevated suspense.
“The Unseen” isn’t rooted in sentimentality, though its character conflicts and relationships are the film’s heart and soul. Earnest acting from all involved takes these micro and macro dramas as far as they can go on their own. An audience’s ability to connect to these people and their plights determines whether “The Unseen” can go further.
Bob Langmore wallows deep in grim-faced martyrdom, perpetually presenting himself as a “woe is me” drifter dependent on drugs, dismissive of others, and attitudinally aggressive at every opportunity. Sympathy is far from automatic when so much of his struggle stems from self-pity and a stubborn refusal of outside support, yet Aden Young, imagine Josh Holloway with Ted Levine’s voice, manages to make a more endearing man out of Bob than the script puts on the page.
Something in Young’s swagger counteracts cantankerous curmudgeon behavior, reversing polarity on a personality designed, intentionally or unintentionally, to be archetypically alienating. Young employs a subtly relatable humanity that layers sincerity behind Bob’s desire to do right by his distant daughter. Seeing Bob at a bar, at work, on the phone, and driving around town grounds his world in a realistic blue-collar melancholy despite the extraordinary part of the premise.
This slice-of-life snippet structure also complicates the narrative. “The Unseen” isn’t always upfront about its entertainment intentions or its story’s destination, which presents a problem for the fiction’s flow.
This isn’t about keeping twists secret or being unpredictable to maintain mystique for an audience. Rather, the long ramp-up meanders in a manner where one cannot be certain if the primary genre is body horror, family drama, crime thriller, or sci-fi allegory. Maybe “The Unseen” means to be a mixture of everything. But remaining invested is a challenge when there isn’t even a vague indication of where the film intends to take you. It’s less a feeling of wonderment and more a reaction of uncaring confusion.
In particular, the midsection has a bout of transition editing hiccups where certain scenes seem either truncated or outright nonexistent. Some missing moments materialize later in flashback, though there is disjointedness during key sequences where passage of time and character placements shift suddenly enough to shake a viewer right out of the setting.
With dozens of special makeup FX credits to his name, including “Watchmen,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” and “The X-Files,” industry veteran Geoff Redknap makes his feature film directorial debut with “The Unseen.” Redknap demonstrates raw talent for crafting characters and setting arcs in motion, but installing linearity into a cinematic blueprint is an aspect in need of additional refinement. Redknap’s story features emotional nuance and fine production design making terrific use of wintry locations and frequent camera resets. Plug in a plot with power to match the premise and put consistent confidence behind the storytelling, and another effort can have better odds at landing a lasting impression.
Review Score: 50