Film Review: “Open Your Eyes” Tries Too Hard to Confuse and Complex the Viewer
Written by: Adam Vaughn | May 31st, 2021
Open Your Eyes (Greg A. Sager, 2021) 2 out of 4 stars.
Who could ask for a better Covid-quarantine release than a film about a writer stuck indoors trying to stay productive? Greg Sager’s Open Your Eyes has the intimate feel of a well-crafted dramatic thriller, with an overall sense of isolation and insanity that keeps the film afloat for its duration. At the same time, Sager (Gray Matter) persists on two major film conventions that do the film more harm than good: a tedious and sluggish pace, and a promise of complex ideas that turn out to be much more simple than desired.
Open Your Eyes follows screenwriter Jason Miller (Ry Barrett, Still the Water) as he struggles to write his newest script, isolated in his apartment. As his procrastination takes over, he starts to experience strange occurrences around him that defy logical explanation. Shortly afterwards, he meets Lisa (Joanna Saul), a next-door neighbor who (oddly) takes an immediate liking to Jason. But as Jason’s mind starts to unravel, he realizes nothing is as it seems, and chaos lies ahead.
When I use the word “chaos,” what I refer to is the cluttered mess of Sager’s thoughts and ideas, portrayed against a desaturated mise-en-scène and a stagnant pace. Open Your Eyes wants to take its time to get to the point, and it succeeds for a while through surprising scenes of terror and uneasiness, but the luster of these images starts to fade away as soon as the dialogue starts. The interactions between Barrett and Saul bring the film to a pause due to shaky acting and awkward editing cuts, and it isn’t until the supernatural elements of the film return that director Sager is able to pick up the lost momentum.
All the same, Open Your Eyes has consistency, helping to maintain the thematic sense of isolation and decay, which only grows stronger as the film progresses. Complimenting the film’s tone is the crisp cinematography that helps sell the film’s intimacy and claustrophobia. The movie is at its strongest when it embraces consistency, as it slowly creeps to its final reveal and intense climactic conclusion.
Unfortunately, Open Your Eyes ends leaving both confusion and discontent, as Sager tries to add levels of complexity to an otherwise straightforward plot reveal. Nothing surprises the viewer the way Sager probably expects it to, and the slightly unusual elements of the ending make very little sense, creating more questions than answers. Moreover, the ending also feels out of place: an entire established film with a heretofore consistent tone is shattered by a grand-scheme idea that cannot possibly be told in the last 10-15 minutes, resulting in a cluttered mess. The unfortunate juxtaposition of a lacking reveal and a splash of new ideas results in Open Your Eyes never reaching full coherency by the time it is over and done.