Close My Eyes


 from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Close My Eyes is about forbidden love. A brother and sister (Clive Owen and Saskia Reeves) finally allowed a long-dormant, unspoken attraction to erupt into lust. This explosive situation was exacerbated by the fact that they waited to consummate their lust until the sister was married, and the husband soon caught her in some lies about her absences. Before the consummation of the incest, the brother and the husband (Alan Rickman) had bonded over some common interests, and their friendship had become close enough that the husband, at first unaware that he was talking to the man who had cuckolded him, confided his suspicions to the brother.


The husband finally put the pieces together and figured out what was going on, but instead of getting angry, he just let the siblings know that he knew, understood, and had forgiven them. At that point the incest had run its course for the sister, but not for the brother, who had turned the affair into a full-blown obsession. The redefined relationship among the three of them was utterly uncomfortable for everyone.

The film ends with their awkwardness. The three of them took a brisk autumn walk together. The husband and wife walked together, not quite in sync, while the brother trailed behind them, within earshot, but not really part of the conversation. It's the kind of scene that can make audience members shift uncomfortably in their chairs and look away in embarrassment.


I guess the film is supposed to excel as a character study, but that's a difficult position to support when the audience is kept totally in the dark about the characters' motivations. True, there are characters, but there is no study.

The script fails to explain why the following occurred:

1) The sister claimed she was totally happy with her husband just before diving into her brother's dick. Perhaps she had some reasonable motivation, but the audience is never let in on it.

2) The brother suddenly decided to change suddenly from from his career as a corporate heavy hitter into a more socially conscious type. He says he has made that decision, but without explanation.

3) The brother's new boss inexplicably hired him to work in the socially conscious job, at a small fraction of his usual salary. He had a bad interview. He was outrageously overqualified. The two men seemed to hate one another. Then we saw him working!

4) In another scene the brother and sister, lying in a country lane, were almost run over by a truck. The truck driver never tried to swerve or slow down to avoid them. He just honked the horn and barreled forward, as if he were driving a train and there was nothing else he could do. What the ...?

The script also makes all the symbols and allegories extremely obvious, so obvious that the characters more or less explain them in dialogue. For example, two men sit on a train together, talking while deploring the shoddy construction along the route, and the conversation goes something like this:

The brother's boss: "I say, it's all sort of a metaphor for the failings of the Thatcher administration, isn't it, old chap?"

The brother:  "Ah, yes, old man, as well as the failings of my own incestuous life, and your case of AIDS. In all cases a price is paid for a lack of restraint, don't you know?"

Close My Eyes doesn't try to hide the fact that it is arthouse film which wanders far from the beaten track with scenes you'd never see in a box office smash. In addition to the awkward ending and the explicit incestuous sex, we also listen to the husband and brother discussing Proust, and watch as the brother and his boss use the latter's AIDS to make slimy developers uncomfortable. If it were an American movie, it would include some variation of "gay cowboys eating pudding" (Cartman's characterization of all American indie movies), and I would label it "made for Sundance."

But it's not just arthouse in general. It's 1991 British arthouse. 1991 was a long time ago. It may seem fairly recent, but take into consideration that a 13-year-old boy who watched this when it came out is 40 now, and he has probably aged better than this film. The film seems downright quaint, filled not just with the usual old-time British quaintness, but with a complete sense that the whole story belongs to a lost time and place, possibly in another universe. It's filled with references to how the modern developments of the Thatcher era were destroying the traditional appeal of London's classic architecture, and ... well ... I guess I had forgotten how obsessed everyone was with AIDS at the time.

The film does have plusses.
Unlike typical arthouse films, its production values are solid: the cinematography is first-rate, the musical score is evocative, and the melodrama is elevated by a tremendous cast of seasoned professional actors. And of course, there is plenty of beautiful nudity. Clive Owen's dick makes a few appearances in the process of being offered to Saskia Reeves and Helen Fitzgerald, who both show the full monty.

None of those elements are enough to compensate for the questionable character motivations and the other weaknesses of the lifeless script in which the characters blather on and on about subjects unrelated to the main story, but tell us nothing about what is inside of them.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this is a C-. You must understand that it belongs to a "tragically doomed romance" genre, and you should avoid it unless you have a taste for those.

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