‘I want to know what you feel like.’
It might sound like a simple, twee sentiment, but that sentence lies at the emotional heart of In Your Eyes, and stands for so much that is beautiful about the film. Written by Joss Whedon and directed by Brin Hill, In Your Eyes is a simple story built around a single central idea – two people who have never met but who find themselves seeing the world through each other’s eyes. It uses this one strand of magical realism* to up-end normal human experiences of intimacy, creating a powerful exploration of what love means.
In another’s eyes
The film’s fantastical element – the connection that lets Rebecca and Dylan experience the world through each other’s senses – is the most obvious way in which the film shows the experience of love. It’s an unambiguous metaphor for love as a shocking, transformative experience, one that makes us see the world in new and wonderful ways. It leads us to see everything from the point of view of another person, to whose perspective we find ourselves intimately bound.
Think of that moment when you started singing along to a terrible pop song because your date loved it; or your boyfriend made you realise how cute pug dogs are; or you noticed just how exciting horses were to your children. The film evokes this experience many times, most obviously when Rebecca builds a snowman for Dylan and he in return shows her a New Mexico sunset. They see the world through the eyes of love, and its wonders are revealed.
The confidence to continue
Seeing themselves through each other’s eyes brings out another aspect of love that the film explores – love as a bringer of confidence.
When someone else tells you that they love you, when they not only say but show that they think you’re special, it’s an incredible confidence boost. It puts that extra skip in your step, knowing that you are worthy of being valued, worthy of love. The little voices putting you down in your head don’t have to win.
There’s a wonderful moment in the film when Dylan sees Rebecca in a mirror for the first time and tells her how beautiful he thinks she is. You can see that confidence growing in her face, overcoming the belittling she has suffered at the hands of her husband. Each of these two lovers gives the other confidence, and they get it back in return. It’s wonderful.
Connecting to another, connecting to you
This shocking, unexpected connection that Dylan and Rebecca make, this magical, wonderful thing helps each of them to connect more deeply with themselves as well as each other. It gives each of them the confidence to explore their own feelings and failings, their own past and their potential future. In stark contrast with the husband who throws out Rebecca’s photos, or the old friends forcing Dylan down a path he does not want, Dylan and Rebecca support each other in becoming more self-aware, more connected with their emotions. It’s a connection that makes each of them less reliant on others while building an intimacy that they’ve never shared with anyone else.
It’s the beauty and the paradox of love as explained by Joss Whedon.
A film worth loving
It would by easy to dismiss In Your Eyes as just another love story, but it’s so much more than that. In Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon explored horror conventions in a way that was both affectionate and challenging. Here he does the same for love stories. What he says about love may not contain anything completely new, but he brings it together with a beauty and a freshness that left me grinning as I fell asleep last night.
It helps that the script is alternately funny and touching, as with so much of Whedon’s work, that the cast give great performances, and that it is often beautifully shot.
You can see the first few minutes for free and instantly hire the whole thing on Vimeo, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a beautiful film, it’s still a relatively daring approach to distribution, and it’s well worth your time and money.
Go, watch, and reflect anew on love.
And once you’ve watched it leave a comment below, let me know what you think.
* When I see the phrase ‘magical realism’ I read the word ‘fantasy’. It’s a phrase that seems to have been invented by the literary establishment to avoid admitting that they’re reading, writing and enjoying stories that share a genre connection with The Dresden Files and all those shelves full of paranormal romances. But it’s also a useful phrase, as it’s now come to imply a particular type of fantasy, usually with a modern, realistic setting and only one or two fantastical leaps of imagination.