Grief can be a launching point for a decent psychological thriller, but in Amaurosis, this is an uneasy mix. Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Amaurosis starts off well enough as the type of story where a traumatized woman wonders if someone’s deceiving her or if she’s losing her mind. Unfortunately, any suspense unravels from slow pacing and a third act rife with implausibility.
Called The Unseen upon its initial release in the UK, Amaurosis takes its title from a medical condition involving temporary blindness. For Gemma (Jasmine Hyde, Good Omens), this occurs during panic attacks whenever she’s reminded of her son’s accidental death. (The boy dies offscreen in the film’s early moments, but this is no less disturbing, especially for parents.)
Writer/director/producer Gary Sinyor (the 2014 mockumentary United We Fall, 1999’s Chris O’Donnell romantic comedy The Bachelor) dramatizes this from Gemma’s point of view with fuzzy images and the screen fading to black. Sinyor doesn’t overuse the effect, and for a while, Amaurosis creates decent tension between Gemma and her husband, Will (Richard Flood, TV’s Shameless) as they struggle to cope. Will starts to hear their child’s voice in his room at night. Gemma vomits even considering an afterlife, and it seems like only a matter of time before the marriage quietly implodes.
Into this setup comes Paul (Simon Cotton, The Fall of the Krays, TV’s Hanna), a Good Samaritan who finds Gemma during a panic attack and summons help. He invites the couple to stay in his isolated guest house to reconnect and recover. Once they’re in the country, it isn’t long before Gemma wonders if her husband is losing his grip on reality or if she is. The unfailingly kind Paul, meanwhile, happens to have a pharmaceutical background and medication, handy for when Gemma wants to adjust her dosage or drug Will without his knowledge.
Hyde turns in a solid, layered performance as a woman whose stoicism and prickly attitude camouflage her pain, and it’s hard not to sympathize with Gemma and Will. But it takes a while for the mystery/thriller aspect to kick in, and once it does, it doesn’t feel as if it belongs in the same film. Characters make nonsensical decisions, and the third act ties a lot of threads together in a way that strains credibility. With a tighter structure and focus, Amaurosis could have been capably creepy. Instead, it meanders and blurs, like its protagonist’s vision.