February 21, 1999 -- "At First Sight" is the kind of film that can easily be overcooked on its own sentimental juices, but it doesn't quite fall into that melodramatic trap.
Thanks to some very fine acting by Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis and Nathan Lane and a true story based on Doctor Oliver Sacks' book "An Anthropologist on Mars," the material rises above the average love story (see Message in a Bottle for an average love story).
Kilmer ("Heat," "The Saint") stars as Virgil Adamson, a man who has been blind since an early age with a form of cataracts. He meets and falls in love with architect Amy Benic (Sorvino of "Mighty Aphrodite"). Benic persuades Adamson to try a new surgical procedure to remove his cataracts and his sight is miraculously restored. End of story? Of course not.
It turns out that Adamson has been without sight so long he has to learn to see all over again and this is not an easy task. I've read some accounts of cases like this and the depiction here appears consistent with those accounts. The situation is dramatic enough without a long-lost father being thrown into the mix, but that's what happens.
Nathan Lane ("The Birdcage") adds some welcome levity to the film as the wise-cracking vision therapist, Phil Webster and Kelly McGillis has a nice supporting role as Adamson's protective sister, Jennie Anderson. Director Irwin Winkler manages to keep the sentimentality under control. He also keeps the story thoroughly grounded in reality. This film rates C+.
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