The Unseen

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Unseen
"Hyde, in her first major film role, imbues Gemma with a self assurance that makes her an appealing protagonist and keeps the film from becoming morbid."

When Gemma (Jasmine Hyde) and Will (Richard Flood) lose their little boy in a tragic accident, their orderly lives are turned upside down. The beautiful home that once echoed with his laughter is now weighted down with memories, making it all the harder to imagine a future without him. Determined to break out of the spiral of depression, Gemma persuades her husband to accompany her on a trip to a remote guest house belonging to new acquaintance Paul (Simon Cotton). A quite place in a scenic location, it should give them the break they need - but is it that easy to leave trouble behind?

There are any number of films out there about the loss of children, but one thing they have in common is that they keep their main characters' mental health issues within socially accepted bounds. Depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts - all of these are things that most audience members will, in context, be able to relate to. The Unseen takes it a step further. Gemma begins to have panic attacks that affect her eyesight, making her temporarily blind - a particularly terrifying experience when she's driving. Will, meanwhile, becomes convinced that he can still hear their son in his room. Is he experiencing auditory hallucinations? Is it simply the manifestation of an emotional refusal to let go? Or is something else going on?

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Struggling with bereavement, her own disability and the dangers of Will's obsession - even before fresh troubles emerge - Gemma is placed in a classic woman in peril position, but shows no inclination to look outside herself for help. Though she accepts what seems like sensible advice, she is determined to get back on her feet and take control of her own life. Hyde, in her first major film role, imbues her with a self assurance that makes her an appealing protagonist and keeps the film from becoming morbid. Whilst Will shows little inclination to break the ties that bind him to the awful past, she is in constant pursuit of a better future. Good work from Hyde makes this believable without making her seem cold - we see her pain but also her spirit.

Shunning the constant shadows that hang over most films of this ilk, Sinyor finds horrors in all weathers and in the most mundane places. He very effectively captures the atmosphere of a remote small town and the guest house beyond it, half-decorated and quiet in the off-season. The audience also gets to experiences the effects of Gemma's blindness, preceded by blurred vision, which is less gimmicky than it sounds. From the start we are aware that it's these small, ordinary things that can be fatal, so we are never completely at ease.

There's a rather unlikely plot strand holding the whole thing together, but detailed character development and measured performances from all three leads keep the film grounded. Overall, there's a polished quality to it that's relatively rare in British film, and its story unspools in a fluent way that's likely to keep viewers coming back to it over time. It may or may not scare you, but it's a properly effective thriller.

Reviewed on: 09 Nov 2017
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The Unseen packshot
Gemma and Will are shattered when their son dies in an accident. Gemma blames herself and starts to have panic attacks that affect her eyesight, while Will believes his son is caling to him.

Director: Gary Sinyor

Writer: Gary Sinyor

Starring: Richard Flood, Simon Cotton, Jasmine Hyde

Year: 2017

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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