The movie is set in 1980, a magical time when square-jawed white academics were still encouraged to swindle the globe into giving them whatever they wished. A fresh minted Columbia P.H.D. who pivots from painting to writing to teaching as if he were running a Ponzi scheme for his medium abilities, George is even more terrified of his mediocrity than we can imagine at the beginning of the film, whereas Catherine — a revered art refinisher whose Christian belief is more latent than lapsed — doesn’t appear to hear the self-negation in her voice once she tells an addict that she “owes it” to her husband to sacrifice her career as kindling for his. She purges such doubts within the toilet instead of airing them publicly.
The film opens on a note of auspicious creepiness. A person (Norton) pulls into the garage of a bedraggled rural home solely to possess drops of blood splatter the windshield — then, once he steps out of the car, his face. He looks up, realizing that the crimson leak is coming back from the ceiling. Many shots later, he is running toward the camera with a girl in his arms.
Things Heard & Seen is extremely watchable, with an efficient forty minutes about of character-driven buildup grounded in Seyfried's sympathetic performance. However, Berman and Pulcini's failure to get suspense becomes problematic throughout a second half that settles into common psycho-spouse adventure story rhythms with some half-assed ghost-story and feminist parts tossed in. It's an odd match of a script (adapted by Berman and Pulcini) that is too obvious, telegraphing instead of teasing out its twists, and too timid direction; one gets the sense that the filmmakers are checking off genre tropes and tricks from a list rather than finding ways to invest them with contemporary chills or shivers.
The most fascinating facet of “Things Heard & Seen” are its scenes from a wedding that’s falling apart in slow motion. Seyfried is aware of a way to bury Catherine’s resentment so that it simmers slightly below the surface of encounters, and Norton, who feels like a dreamboat version of Michael Murphy, is aware of a way to play a husband who’s a narcissist and perhaps worse. He does it by attempting to reel within the gaslighting aspect of himself, which solely exposes it more.
The writer-directors might have juiced things up by sticking nearer to Catherine — and in doing so, permitting some dread and mystery to ripen around George. Seyfried is definitely up to the task. The actress does not need to overplay Catherine's tremulousness or deform her face into a Munch-like mask of terror; with those wide, anxious eyes, she's a natural scream queen. Sadly, the film usually ditches Catherine to accompany George on his weaselly exploits. And Norton, as a person who, after years of coasting on attractiveness and glib charm, finds his narcissism catching up with him, offers away too much too soon; George is so transparently uncomplete he is never minatory.
But whereas the film keeps returning to the concept of death as a bridge between the physical and religious worlds, it never finds the way to attach the two sides of the story it’s telling, which ultimately defangs them each. Because the final stretch of “Things Heard & Seen” evokes everything from “Hereditary” to “A Place within the Sun” and even “The House that Jack Built” because it scrambles to shut the gap that forms an irreconcilable distance between Catherine and George, Berman and Pulcini’s film feels as if it’s additionally haunted by unexpected potential than anything else.
Final Score – [7.5/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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