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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » At First Sight (Blu-ray)
At First Sight (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // PG-13 // November 24, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted December 30, 2015 | E-mail the Author

If Irwin Winkler's At First Sight (1999) weren't prefaced by a "based on a true story" disclaimer, I'd imagine that most viewers wouldn't believe it for a minute. Based on the case of Shirl Jennings, our story follows blind man Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer) before, during, and after an operation that temporarily restores his eyesight. It's done at the prodding of architect Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino), his lovely young girlfriend who longs for Virgil to experience what he'd been missing since the age of three. His well-meaning but doting sister Jennie (Kelly McGillis) objects, insisting that blindness is part of Virgil's identity...but he's got nothing to lose except hope, so he goes under the knife.

That slightly ominous "temporary" implies that Virgil's newfound sight is fleeting...but even while he has it, things aren't perfect right away. With the help of Amy, the doctors, and unorthodox therapist Phil Webster (Nathan Lane), Virgil must learn to train his brain: after all, he's so used to recognizing by touch that any other way is brand new. He's essentially a child learning to read, further crippled by a lifetime of stubborn habits, but happy for the new experience.

At First Sight is more than a little overstuffed as a whole; divided into fairly distinct thirds (before, during and after the operation, naturally), it can't help but drag a bit at 128 minutes. Most of the deadweight arrives in the form of too many supporting characters, which also include Amy's jealous ex-husband Duncan (Steven Weber) and Virgil's absentee father, who abandoned the family after a series of unsuccessful eye operations during his son's childhood and early adult years. This creates more than enough personal obstacles for our couple to overcome, which might work in theory but ends up as a doughy, padded middle that almost sinks the boat. Luckily, Winkler's film sticks the landing by going out on a happy but subtle note, hinting at better times without the use of syrupy, slow-motion montages.

I don't remember if I saw At First Sight theatrically, but I definitely remember the trailer and picked up MGM's 1999 DVD a few years after its original release. The film has aged fairly well in some respects but definitely feels like a product of its time overall, and I'd still imagine that anyone who's seen and enjoyed it will appreciate having At First Sight on Blu-ray. Olive Films offers a slim but respectable package that easily beats the sixteen year-old DVD, with the positives (a strong A/V presentation) firmly outweighing the negatives (no subtitles, virtually no bonus features).

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio, At First Sight looks decent enough and easily more impressive than MGM's 1999 DVD. This is a clean and relatively crisp 1080p transfer that appears to have been sourced from different elements; I'm not exactly what source materials were used...but the lack of dirt and debris is certainly welcome and there's little to no excessive digital manipulation on display here, including heavy noise reduction or edge enhancement. With that said, At First Sight is a little soft by design, although that's almost expected within the boundaries of any romantic drama. Overall, this represents a nice upgrade for a production that's pleasing enough to look at and offers occasional bursts of color, texture, and detail, as well as a distinct film-like texture. Fans shouldn't be disappointed.


DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized images are purely decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix has little trouble creating a great atmosphere, as there are a handful of interesting touches along the way as far as channel separation and rear activity are concerned. All of the other expected elements---clear dialogue, well-balanced music cues, and occasional background ambiance---are also covered well enough. I did notice a few small and almost entirely random sync issues, but these might be due to questionable ADR and not a technical issue with this Blu-ray. Unfortunately, with this being an Olive Films title, no optional subtitles or captions have been included...even though they're present on the DVD and could have easily been ported over.

Menus, Packaging, & Bonus Features

Not much to the menu: it's just a static interface that's basically identical to the washed-out cover art with separate options to play the movie, select one of its eight chapters, or access the Theatrical Trailer. This one-disc release is packaged in a standard keepcase and includes a promotional insert for other Olive titles.

Final Thoughts

At First Sight is two-thirds of a great romantic drama, striking a good balance between traditional themes (emotional growth, dependence, and accepting things about people that can't be changed) and the unusual backdrop of a person temporarily regaining their sight. It's still a bit overstuffed and slightly overstays its welcome at 128 minutes; the addition of a few too many personal obstacles (absentee father, doting sister, etc.) threatens to overshadow what At First Sight does best, but it mostly survives these speed bumps. Olive Films' Blu-ray serves up a modest package that fans will enjoy, with strong A/V specs and...a measly trailer. Recommended for die-hard fans only.


Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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