Grief can strike in many different ways and when it hits, it has the potential to turn people inside-out. Director Gary Sinyor explores the emotional landscape of overcoming the death of a loved one in the poignant and subtle The Unseen. The story follows a young couple, Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) and Will (Richard Flood) who lose their toddler son under mysterious circumstances. The traumatised parents are plagued by guilt and remorse but when they begin to hear the voice of their child, they suffer fits of blindness and panic. A well-meaning friend, Paul (Simon Cotton) offers help by allowing them to stay with him in his lakeside retreat in the country, but when his ulterior intentions emerge, the ugly truth sends their world into a downward spiral.
The central impetus of the film hinges on Will and Gemma’s breakdown, their grief takes many shapes and forms but the most touching are the attacks that seize them, blurring their vision and sending them into hysteria. This is stylishly yet simply executed through tunnel-vision sequences that place the audience in the point of view of the struggling couple.
The narrative suffers from poor pacing and at times repeats itself without rhyme or reason. The intrigue unfurls at a snail’s pace, which stifles the already reserved performances from both main actors. The two parents never fully dive into a convincing portrayal of hysteria, leaving the emotional arc a little hollow and half-baked. Stylistically, the movie leans more towards psychological thriller but tries to place its other foot precariously into the realm of drama and works best when it leads with its best foot into the former.
Visually, the film is claustrophobic. The majority of the story takes place in Will and Gemma’s luxurious London abode or Paul’s decadent country retreat. Sinyor manages to imbue the scenic Lake District with dread and doubt that leaves the audience uneasy throughout the unravelling of the grieving parents. The three characters divide most of the screen time, creating a tense triangle of deception and manipulation inspired by Polanski’s Knife in the Water.
The Unseen is a stirring portrayal of a couple overcoming the insurmountable feat of losing a child, chucked into a blender of the thriller genre. Unfortunately, the poignant dramatic elements that could have given the film a genuine soul are shelved in favour of signposted twists and turns.
The Unseen is released nationwide on 15th December 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Unseen here: