Film Review: The Ticket

Visually striking film about blindness and sight that lacks focus and purpose.
Reviews
Specialty Releases

Ido Fluk’s The Ticket is a visually compelling film that vividly evokes what it’s like to be blind, regain one's vision and then over time lose it again. The shadows morph into shimmering lights as blurred objects become focused, moving from monochrome shades to sharply delineated colors, and finally reversing course as our hero returns to sightlessness and the screen goes black. Still, this one is a puzzler.

Obviously a morality tale of some sort is unfolding—indeed, much of it feels like a faith-based film dealing with larger metaphorical meanings of blindness and sight—but ultimately far too many thoughts are packed into the story and it’s never entirely clear what it’s about. It’s not “ambiguous,” to use the trendy term, just unclear. There’s a distinction.

When the blind and gentle James (Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey” fame) unaccountably sees again, he’s transformed into a competitive, ambitious and greedy go-getter. He dumps his ordinary-looking wife (Malin Akerman) for his stunning younger colleague (Kerry Bishé) and gratuitously assaults his amiable old friend Bob (Oliver Platt), who is also blind.

No longer confined to a desk job at the real estate firm where he works, James becomes a property guru—almost sounding like a Bible-thumping preacher—as he conducts community meetings and encourages down-on-their-luck, swimming-in-debt homeowners to sell their houses to him way below market value, which one assumes he’ll flip at a substantial profit. He’s a predator with the soul of a con artist.

His spiel centers on the importance of seizing an opportunity when it presents itself and blaming the homeowners if they don’t. He describes a man who’d pray every night asking God to let him win the lottery. Observing the repeated prayer, an angel asks God, “Why don’t you let him win?” to which God replies, “I would love to help him out, but he’s never bought a lottery ticket.” Get it? It’s up to you. And there it is: “the ticket” referred to in the title.

James has symbolically grabbed his ticket (his second chance?) and in the end he’s far worse off than he was before. So what are we talking about here? Are Fluk and screenwriter Sharon Mashihi saying you should accept the cards you’ve been dealt and/or be careful of what you wish for? And do the meek also inherit the Earth?

Still, some tangential elements in the film are effective. Consider the way James sees and reinterprets the world around him once he has regained his sight. The floral wallpaper in his house, for example, looks faded and shabby. It’s no accident that his new home is modern and sleek with floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s no wallpaper or curtains.

James’ wife now appears dowdy and, by extension, his relationship with her becomes oppressive too. The crippling and (paradoxically) comfortingly familiar bond—based on his total dependence and her absolute control—has been abruptly challenged and is no longer acceptable.

The acting can’t be faulted, though Stevens is clearly the centerpiece and excellent as a conflicted man in limbo who sheds his infantile state to become a master schemer. The one constant is his narcissism, including his unadulterated joy as he splashes around in a pond with his young son. It’s also another lovely scene to look at.

If only The Ticket had settled on being a small family drama. I, for one, would have liked to know more about what makes the wife tick. But then that would have been a different movie.  

The creative team certainly did its homework on blindness. The idea for The Ticket was spawned during the postproduction phase of Fluk’s last film Never Too Late, as he found himself staring at a blank screen while the dialogue and other sounds were audible. That momentary glitch started him thinking about the experiences of a blind man and how that might change if he were to see again.

Fluk and Mashihi began studying blindness in earnest, attending events for the visually impaired and interviewing specialists to find the medically correct mechanism through which their lead character would be able to regain his sight and then lose it. In this instance, it’s the shrinkage and later expansion of a pituitary tumor. The team’s commitment to medical authenticity is impressive.

That’s not the issue. It’s the amalgam of loftier themes here that don’t add up, even while the film’s imagery lingers.

Click here for cast and crew information.