“I don’t need any help.“
The main character in Randall Okita‘s See For Me indignantly says this, or something along the same lines, several times throughout the home-invasion thriller. The one time where she shouldn’t have said it though, is when a cop comes to the door and asks if everything is all right.
Backing up a little, the movie starts with the protagonist Sophie (Skyler Davenport) heading off to cat-sit at a stranger’s remote house somewhere in upstate New York. The former skier, now blind, has to find something else to do with her life since she can no longer compete. Although we soon learn, Sophie only chooses to not compete anymore. She has made it very clear to everyone—her mother (Natalie Brown), her friend Cam (Keaton Kaplan), the taxicab driver, her employer Debra (Laura Vandervoort)—she wants to do everything on her own from now on. Asking for help is agonizing for Sophie.
This kind of unfiltered obstinance comes too early in the movie for those viewers who want a hero they can root for. However, Sophie being stubborn and rude doesn’t rule out that possibility. If anything, her inability to accept help is why she is so relatable as a character. Sophie’s extreme pride is going to get her killed if she’s not careful.
Once Debra leaves for her post-divorce vacation, Sophie calls up Cam to help her learn the layout. She then finds the wine room and discovers one bottle is worth a pretty penny. Cam, however, doesn’t approve and ends the video chat because he not only doesn’t want to be her accomplice, he doesn’t like how Sophie only calls him now when she wants help with stealing.
After getting locked out of the house and not wanting to call Cam, Sophie remembers the app her mother mentioned earlier—the movie’s namesake—that lets blind or deaf users connect to a live operator who can help them complete tasks over the phone. Luckily for Sophie, she eventually gets a hold of a resourceful operator, Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), who becomes her eyes throughout the rest of the film.
The most external conflict in the film is the three men breaking into Debra’s house. They’re after something in her safe, but when they find Sophie after she’s already called the police, they nearly kill her until they discover she’s both blind and cunning. In exchange for sparing her life and cutting her in on the loot, Sophie cancels the 911 call. Unfortunately, the aforesaid cop is already en route.
From here on out, See For Me becomes a more standard thriller than expected after learning Sophie isn’t all that squeaky clean. She certainly has more grit than the average victim in these kinds of movies; both her pilfering and stubborn streak makes her unlikable. Be that as it may, her imperfections are what give her depth. Yes, Sophie is blind, but that one aspect doesn’t define her. Rather, her Achilles heel turns out to be her fear of vulnerability and appearing weak. That kind of exposure is terrifying to someone who was once considered a paragon of physicality. Right now Sophie isn’t at her best emotionally, but she still deserves some compassion.
See For Me doesn’t forego story conveniences; Sophie happens to be at a house that’s about to be robbed, and she herself is a thief. Something else too beneficial to the plot is Kelly being a veteran. Her sharpened military skills serve her well in both sniper video games and Sophie’s home invasion problem. A less capable director would have found a way to make these elements protruding and cheesy, yet Okita succeeds by not calling too much attention to them in the first place. They simply help the move along faster.
No matter how many movies they make about home invasions, they still have a way of creeping under people’s skin. The safety we cherish and assume about our refuges from the outside world aren’t always sacred to everyone else. And once that security is breached, it’s no wonder we feel so violated. See for Me doesn’t quite strike the same chords as other similar films; this isn’t even Sophie’s house, and she already felt uneasy there from the start. Even so, what the movie lacks in fundamental frights, it makes up for in pace and action. Having a main character who isn’t the perfect victim either, is also appreciated.
While the setup in See for Me is better than the outcome, it’s still a very digestible thriller.
See for Me screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.