Shirley Henderson and Goran Visnjic sex up Close Your Eyes—an achievement worth noting given the otherwise neutered condition of this leaden procedural, and the fact that the two actors virtually never touch. In a reverse of gender roles, Henderson plays the steel-nerved detective and Visnjic is the vulnerable hypnotherapist with a sixth sense and a haunted past who she bullies into helping her department’s hunt for a serial killer—in this installment, a Mad Libs fusion of child abductor and zodiac occultist. The early expository scenes move with the cool slink of skipping stones, mostly due to the great point-counterpoint of Henderson’s delicate naughtiness and Visnjic’s coy, smiling deflection. His wife (Miranda Otto in a thankless role, as usual) is eight-months pregnant, and the most honest moment in their subplot comes when she complains about his malcontent attitude and he grumbles, “Sex. I miss sex.” Director Nick Willing has a good eye for shot composition—the huge window in Visnjic’s office acts as a picture-within-a-picture, the traffic-jammed expressway and half-built construction site reflecting his frustrated, unfinished state of mind. The visualization of Henderson’s dream during an introductory scene where Visnjic hypnotizes her in order to cure her smoking habit is straight out of Alice in Wonderland, a TV version of which Willing incidentally directed in 1999. The references to Hitchcock, Polanski, and Nicolas Roeg are bandied about, but the movie adulterates the tight atmosphere of those filmmakers with vacant, modernist gore. At a certain point—say, when a character is disemboweled and has a live wriggling rat implanted in his abdomen—the movie is not merely bathing in its puddle of grotesquerie, but drowning in it. Still, like most UK horror cinema, Close Your Eyes is braced by its supporting roster of Brit pros: Paddy Considine, Colin Redgrave, Claire Rushbrook (memorable as Brenda Blethyn’s other daughter in Secrets & Lies), and especially Fiona Shaw, the splendid scene-stealer who burns a swath through the film despite limited screen time and heavy latex poundage. For Visnjic, who is sometimes associated with George Clooney because of the ER hand-off, this is his Out of Sight—the first time his potential as a classic leading man has been granted a pinch of credibility. (The next step is picking better scripts.) The recently ubiquitous Henderson (best remembered as the diva in Topsy-Turvy) continues to strengthen her position as one of England’s finest actresses; the way she manipulates her tiny, brittle physique and weak voice into something sultry and ferocious is astonishing. The film’s constant motif of her pale mug and black mop amid a society of tall blondes is also illustrative of her career status. Like the gone (but in no way forgotten) Katrin Cartlidge, Henderson wouldn’t even register in the eyesight of most Hollywood executives, which is a roundabout credit to the makers of Close Your Eyes. If anything, she’s too big for it.
- First Look International
- 108 min
- Nick Willing
- William Brookfield, Nick Willing
- Goran Visnjic, Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine, Miranda Otto, Claire Rushbrook, Sarah Woodward, Fiona Shaw, Corin Redgrave
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: