With The Avengers making over $600 million at the box office and Avengers 2 poised to make even more, you would think Joss Whedon would be content to sit in his mansion counting his money in between Marvel gigs. But the guy can’t seem to help himself. He has a compulsive need to create.
That’s why he’s created Bellwether Pictures, a production studio Whedon uses to make fun side projects. The first film the studio produced was Much Ado About Nothing, a modern take on the Shakespeare classic shot in black and white at Whedon’s house.
Bellwether Pictures is following that film up with In Your Eyes (which it co-produced with Night & Day Productions), a film written by Whedon and directed by Brin Hill. It debuted at the Tribecca Film Festival this past Sunday, but as an added bonus, Whedon has also made the film available online for a 72-hour rental for just five bucks.
“This is exciting for us because it means we get to explore yet another new form of distribution, and we get $5,” Whedon said.
In Your Eyes is a scaled-down, simple film, both in terms of scope and production values. But being a Joss Whedon story, it does feature the trademark snappy dialogue, sci-fi elements and strong female protagonist fans have come to expect.
The story focuses on two characters, Dylan (Michael Stahl-David) and Rebecca (Zoe Kazan). As children, the two accidentally discover that they have a telepathic bond when Rebecca crashes her sled into a tree and Dylan feels as if he is experiencing the crash firsthand.
The psychic bond lays mostly dormant as the two move into adulthood. And, with Rebecca in New Hampshire and Dylan in New Mexico, the two never cross paths in real life, so they are left wondering if the shared moment they had as children was real or just part of their imaginations. Until one day they break the bond wide open and find a way to hold conversations with each other while simultaneously seeing what the other person is seeing and feeling what the other person is feeling.
The film never really dwells on the sci-fi aspect or offers any explanation as to how or why it is happening. Instead, it is simply a tool that allows these two lost souls to make a connection to another human being somewhere out there in the world. (In that way, it is almost a metaphor for the Internet’s ability to allow you to connect with someone across the globe without ever actually meeting them face-to-face.)
Both Dylan and Rebecca are trapped in their lives for completely different reasons. Dylan fell in with the wrong crowd and ended up on the wrong side of the law and he now finds himself working a dead-end job, dealing with a tough parole officer and avoiding the temptation to return to his life of crime. Rebecca seems to have a more stable life at first glance, but she’s in a controlling marriage to a manipulative doctor who sees her more as a prop than a person.
They both end up being good influences on one another, but their relationship causes problems in their “real” lives. The closer they get, the more they isolate themselves from others and the more people’s eyebrows get raised as they catch these two talking to their “imaginary” friend.
Stahl-David and Kazan really have a wonderful chemistry together, which is no small feat considering the two are never actually in the same room together. Their conversations seem incredibly natural and feel real, even though he filmed his scenes in New Mexico and she filmed hers in New Hampshire. Their relationship is the backbone of the film and watching them get lost in their own world is quite lovely.
The production values aren’t the best. Being a low budget film, there are times it looks and feels a bit like a made-for-TV movie. But it is charming and entertaining enough to keep you hooked even if it can’t compete with the cinematography of big budget mainstream films. Hill also did a great job location scouting. Dylan’s trailer is actually on a visually-impressive expanse of land and the barren desert locale contrasts nicely with small, wintery New Hampshire town Rebecca lives in.
And the story, while solid for the most part, unravels a bit in the end. For some reason, Whedon overcomplicates what should be a fairly straightforward story, giving his two leads a number of escalating obstacles that become too messy to resolve definitively. The ending feels satisfying at first, but if you stop to think about it for too long, you realize how problematic it actually is.
Still, most things Joss Whedon does are at least worth watching once. The guy takes a lot of chances and comes up with interesting projects. And he is quickly establishing Bellwether Pictures as a bold and intriguing boutique studio that offers a nice change of pace from his summer blockbusters.
You can rent In Your Eyes for $5 at InYourEyesMovie.com. Review written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.