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Incredibly Thought Provoking Ideas Around Something We Take For Granted

  • Jan 31, 2011
Val Kilmer is excellent as Virgil, a sightless man who is given a gift. Virgil has a retina disease which had been previously diagnosed as incurable. He goes with his girlfriend Amy (Mira Sorvino) to see an eye specialist who tells Virgil that medicine has made great strides in the last 25 years and he may be able to give Virgil sight.

Virgil agrees to give the proposed procedure a try. When the bandages are removed after the procedure, the audience doesn't know what to expect. The director shows us what Virgil sees and we quickly realize that though, Virgil has the ability to see, his brain is overwhelmed by the visual images. He therefore has no ability to distinguish anything his eyes see until the doctor gives him a Coke can which Virgil can cradle and know from touch what it is.

Amy then takes Virgil to a vision psychologist (Nathan Lane) to help teach Virgil to identify what he sees. Lane says though Virgil has visual capability, he is still visually blind and must train his brain to know what it is his eyes are looking at.

This movie is highly engrossing and based on a true story. It is so interesting that as sighted people we take everything we see for granted. Virgil, who was fairly comfortable as a sightless person becomes totally dependent on Amy until he can learn to know what he sees. In fact, the first person he can distinguish is his sister, who he mistakes for Amy. There is also an interesting sequence when Virgil first sees himself in a mirror.

I had never heard of this film and caught it by flipping the channels on cable. It is an unknown gem of a film that should not be missed.

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January 31, 2011
I saw this again in HBO the other night. Mira Sorvino was so gorgeous and sympathetic in this film. Thanks for the review!
More At First Sight reviews
review by . April 18, 2000
Pros: Good idea, decent acting     Cons: Little unbelievable     This movie starring Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, Nathan Lane and Steven Weber is based on a true story. Kilmer plays the part of Virgil Adamson, a blind masseuse that meets up with Sorvino (Amy) a New York architect. Amy is over worked and under stress, meeting hectic deadlines, working with her ex-husband, Steven Weber. She needs a little relief, a little love, a little break.   …
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About this movie


At First Sight is a 1999 American film starring Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino, based on the essay To See and Not to See in neurologist Oliver Sacks' book An Anthropologist on Mars.


Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino) takes a break from her work as an architect at a spa in Pinecrest, a small town outside of New York. Virgil Anderson (Val Kilmer) is a masseur at the spa and gives Amy a massage. During the massage, Amy breaks down and cries and later falls asleep as Virgil leaves the room. When she woke up, she ran after Virgil to compliment the massage, only then realizing that Virgil is in fact blind. They hit it off nonetheless, with Virgil asking her out for a date.

Virgil lives alone, though he is taken care of by his over-protective sister, Jennie (Kelly McGillis), who lives next door. He is also shown to have a keen interest in the New York Rangers NHL team, which he follows by listening to their games on TV or radio.

During an intimate session with Amy, Virgil revealed that he went totally blind when he was three and that the last thing he ever remembered seeing was something fluffy. Amy then tried to describe the horizon to Virgil as something that you "can see but can never reach".

When researching, Amy comes across Dr. Charles Aaron, a specialist in eye treatment who suggests to Virgil that, with surgery, he could make the blind man see.

At first, Virgil refuses, and is ...

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Director: Irwin Winkler
Genre: Drama
Release Date: January 15, 1999
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2hrs 8min
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