By David Dent
Gemma and Will are a well-heeled couple living a life of opulence with their little boy. When he dies in a freak accident by drowning in their basement swimming pool (yes, that well-heeled) the grief at his passing almost tears them apart.
Gemma is consequently afflicted by stress related temporary blindness, triggered by memories of her son. She is saved during her first attack by Paul, a young former pharmacist who just happens to be passing her house. Paul, who is separated from his wife, befriends the couple and offers them the use of a guest house on his inherited estate in the Lake District. Will is also keen to leave their house as he is haunted by the voice of their boy.
But once there the couple cannot escape their grief or the attentions of Paul, who increasingly invades their life, and shows an unhealthy interest in the medication that Gemma has been prescribed.
The Unseen is an effective psychological thriller that eschews traditional cat and mouse tactics in favour of a slow build up of menace, and doesn’t feel the need to ratchet up the mayhem in the final reel. For a long time the viewer is as confused as the characters in the film – their motivations seem erratic, in keeping with their mental state. In fact The Unseen works best as a dissection of grief and isolation, less so as a straightforward thriller.
The movie is elegantly shot with some beautiful Lake District scenery, but unfortunately Gemma’s sightless attacks (rendered via distorted POV camera) and their trips to and from the guesthouse start to become a little overfamiliar: as a result the film sags in the middle (at nearly one and three quarter hours it’s also overlong).
Jasmine Hyde is extremely effective in the role of the grieving Gemma, stoic but vulnerable, although Richard Flood’s erratic portrayal of Will occasionally strays into the ludicrous. Simon Cotton is suitably unctuous as Paul, and for the most part this trio do well to hold the attention.
Ultimately The Unseen contains too many unresolved plot elements to truly satisfy, and can’t decide what it wants to be. But it’s a well photographed and reasonably involving mystery, and the grief central to the plot is very believably rendered.