A “look” into writer and director Cooper Karl’s world: “Sightless” movie review

The Netflix thriller keeps you engaged despite a lack of depth and originality


Shea Smith, Editor in Chief

Standing at a solid 5.4 star rating on IMDB, this 89-minute rollercoaster will be sure to keep you on the edge of your seat; whether it’s because you’re genuinely interested or you’re still choosing whether to actually finish the movie, I’ll let you decide. However, littered amongst the controversial content of the plot are breadcrumbs alluding to something that may just blow your mind. This movie is worth the watch just for the experience, and if you don’t believe me, check Netflix’s top 10 in a couple of days.

“Sightless” is a 2017 short-film turned 2020 big-screen psychological thriller that is leaving viewers everywhere with mixed emotions. This film features “Riverdale” star Madelaine Petsch as the main character, Ellen, who after a violent attack, is left permanently blind and in the company of her hired caregiver, Clayton, played by Alexander Koch. The first scene opens with Ellen unsteadily walking towards a balcony, placing her legs on the other side and stepping off. Ominous, right? After her time in the hospital and her acclimation to her new apartment, things start to get a little weird, to say the least. 

Without her sight, Ellen is left to see the world only as she perceives it with her remaining senses, but as always, everything is not what it seems. From objects changing colors to the identity of a single person shifting mid-scene, Easter eggs placed throughout the film will definitely leave you looking for the next one.

If this sounds cliche, that’s because it kind of is. Reality versus perception is a time-old topic and can be done both really well and really poorly, but what I think is even more important than the quality is the game, the rush to find the truth before Ellen does. Something is coming, something big, you can feel it from the first scene, but the question is what. Can you figure it out before all is revealed?

To be honest, nothing about this film is necessarily show-stopping; it’s short as far as movies go and with a plot that moves as slowly as this one does, how much can really be done? However, there are a couple shining stars that deserve an honorable mention.

First and foremost, Petsch’s acting was definitely a plus. If nothing else is going to draw in the 14-21 year-old audience to this movie, using the star from a popular teen drama may at least help (and if I’m being honest, it’s one of the reasons I watched it). I realized she was the main character and was interested to see what she would do with such an emotionally-intricate role. She is no world-class actress and she has a lot to learn, but she does an amazing job at depicting exactly what she is thinking and feeling on her face and with her body language. This can especially become difficult when stepping into a role of a non-seeing person, but she handles it well.

The only other honorable mention is Karl’s directing. Although he is both the writer and director for this film, I think his directing skills made up for where his writing lacked. The camera work is mostly sound and movement based, meaning we are truly seeing this fictional world the same way Ellen experiences it, and it creates an impressive experience for the audience to have. Whether it’s the wind coming through open balcony doors, keys jingling to unlock a door or even the ding of the elevator when someone is coming up, if nothing else is doing it for you, these sensory highlights might just keep you engaged. 

“Sightless”  lacked one big thing: vision. After you get past the corny joke, it’s still true; Karl had a great idea, which is obvious because it has been done successfully before, but he still could have done a better job portraying or expanding upon it. This foundational idea of calling reality into question is something that could be taken to the next level with a wider perspective and a bit more of an original starting point. And, not to mention, the ending is just one big question mark. Can we even believe what is happening? All I can say is you’ll have to “see” for yourself.

Here it comes, the big question. Do I recommend watching this film? Yes, absolutely. Even if you’re a thriller buff, I think there are aspects you may come to enjoy once you learn to look past the lack of plot originality. The acting and directing serve as some shining moments that carry you through until the end even if you’re desperate for something to cling to, but if you take it for what it is, it may even be quite enjoyable. Original or not, “Sightless” is an enticing series of small hints that lead you to a startling conclusion, so be sure not to blink or you just might miss it.