By: Addison Wylie
Tali Barde’s feature film debut For No Eyes Only is set as a tense thriller adding a modern twist to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. It doesn’t come through on being a thriller. Instead, it’s accidentally profound.
What I admired most about For No Eyes Only is Barde’s perceptual take on modern day voyeurism without being too on the nose. Sam (a mopey loner played convincingly by newcomer Benedict Sieverding) suffers from a sports injury and has nothing better to do but hack webcams as he recuperates. Something tells us that even if Sam was able bodied, he’d still get a kick out of watching the private lives of others.
When other people find out about Sam’s sneaky hobby, they’re shaken up briefly before being mesmerized themselves. It goes to show us that even though this modern day hyperactive generation needs constant movement, they’re more entranced by letting their eyes slip into another world for long periods of time. If you didn’t understand why teens were fascinated with online pop culture pitstops such as ChatRoulette, Barde’s movie may help you see eye-to-eye.
For No Eyes Only, however, loses its way. When Sam and a friend witness questionable events over a fellow student’s webcam, the social commentary sits on the back burner and the thriller components take over the narrative.
There are rookie trip-ups (a muddy picture, over-stylized environments to emphasize a mood), but most of these are easily forgiven since this is Barde getting his feature film feet wet for the first time. That said, whenever the film is going for big scares with high strung tension, it feels as if the film is stepping outside its natural element and trying to hit targets that are out of its range. Sometimes independent minimalism can help make these situations believable, but Barde isn’t freaking anyone out with that mock musical score during those dry cat-and-mouse chases.
It’s nice to know Barde will be a filmmaker who will takes risks with his work, but his first feature needed to be something even simpler. With his aptitude to dictate what he sees in relevant culture, it’ll be neat to see how he approaches another genre like a drama or a coming-of-age comedy. But, until he can garner more experience, maybe he should take a break from thrillers.
Catch For No Eyes Only at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox on Sunday, February 16 at 1:30 pm. Filmmaker Tali Barde will be in attendance.
More TIFF Next Wave coverage at Wylie Writes:
Read my review of G.B.F. (screening Sunday, February 16 at 6:15 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox)