Directed and written by Gary Sinyor, The Unseen is an intense, mysterious indie drama that drifts between people dealing with a traumatic loss, and a psychological thriller that drowns in obsession, depression and fixations of varying emotional kinds.
Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) and Will (Richard Flood) are a content couple, with a fine house and a seemingly happy, young life but when they tragically lose their son, Joel, in an horrific accident both their lives begin to unravel as they struggle to deal with the pain and loss that’s suddenly impacted on their lives. Although neither Gemma nor Will truly blame each other out loud, it quickly becomes clear that neither can cope with the reality of the tragic event.
While Will believes he can still hear his son, Gemma blames herself and the stress causes her to start losing her eyesight when the memories of the moment resurface, and a trip to hospital proves her rare condition. During one of her panic attacks, she stumbles into Paul (Simon Cotton), someone who’s passing by. After helping Gemma, he befriends the couple and offers them his ‘getaway’ home in the Lake District and they take him up on his offer to get away from all the tragedy behind them.
Overall, The Unseen is a study of loss on the human mind, with both physical and mental scars literally changing the lives of the two leads. This opening hour is an intriguing, contemplative character study which is both well-structures, understated and offers up a picture of real people trying to find their way back to a world that’s left them.
Jasmine Hyde, as Gemma, is sublime throughout and is compelling, watchable and believable throughout. Thankfully, and her character could have every right to be, she’s not over hysterical but instead internalises the pain with a look to an escape, in the hope of finding an absolution. Richard Flood, a Fassbender/Jim Sturgess-type, plays Will who loses his mind quite quickly after the loss of his son. He also plays it intensely and their relationship is truthful, and honest. It’s actually refreshing that they support each other throughout as well, even if tension and the past occasionally get the better of them.
Where The Unseen gains in intrigue, it loses a little in the repetitive motif of Gemma’s loss of sight. Of course, this is the premise behind the developing story but becomes a little tiresome as it doesn’t always add much, beyond what we already know. While it’s initially an adventure of the unfamiliar, later on you just want them to get on with it. By the time we’ve hit the final third, and the development of their new friend Paul, some of those dragged out sequences means it loses its edge a little and starts going a little back and forth too often, you feel director Sinyor could have cut 20 minutes to really tighten up the story.
The Unseen is less of a horror, and more of a shadowy, unconventional psychological drama that delves into the darkness of an unexpected death. Hyde gives a sterling performance and really helps carry the film to its conclusion in an unflinching portrayal of loss, love and the search for hope.