The Eye is a thriller about a blind young violinist from Hong Kong who has her sight restored through surgery, but who is now able to see too well, so she can observe the Grim Reaper leading the doomed to the other side, and shares the anguish of the donor of her eye-oo.com. She has also been kicked out of the blind orchestra since she has been able to see.
All I know about restored sight comes from Oliver Sacks’ books about a patient whose sight was miraculously restored. It turns out that the problem is knowing what you’re looking at. Babies learn to interpret shapes and colors, dimensions and distances within the first few months after birth. The addition of sight is not always a blessing for an adult who relates to the world through his or her other four senses.
The movie touches on this in a scene where Mun (Lee Sin-Je), a blind girl, is shown a stapler and asked what it is. It’s obvious to her when she feels it. In no time at all, she is moving independently through the world and falling in love with her handsome therapist (Lawrence Chou).
She has an expressive face that is crucial to the success of the film, as she has a lot of reaction shots. The movie is about Mun’s reactions to what she sees. Mun is quiet, introspective, reasonable and persuasive, rather than the overwrought heroines of most films about women in danger.
It is perhaps for this reason that Dr. Wah believes her. When she becomes convinced that she can see the dead leaving this world, she anticipates tragedies before they occur. She suspects this has something to do with the donor of her new eyes, and Dr. Wah begins to believe her, not least because he is in love with her. In light of this development, his uncle, Dr. Lo (Edmund Chen), views it with a jaundiced eye and refuses to reveal the name of the donor.
However, Wah and Mun eventually discover that the corneas came from a girl in Thailand, and travel there for a dramatic conclusion that features a startling scene of carnage all the more shocking because it comes at the end of a relatively quiet and inward film.
“The Eye” is better than it might have been, especially in moments of terror involving Mun’s ability to see what no one else can, and in her relationship with a dying girl at the hospital who becomes her special friend. The notion that body parts retain memories is a horror-movie cliche, as in “The Beast With Five Fingers” and Oliver Stone’s early screenplay “The Hand.” The inspired moments underline just how routine, and sometimes how slow and wordy, the rest of the movie is.