Overview: A man, long blind, recovers his sight inexplicably. His life changes in expected and unexpected ways. 2016; Shout! Factory; Not Rated; 98 minutes.
More Style Than Substance: The Ticket is the story of a man who regains his sight in near miraculous fashion. Additionally, it offers an exploration of the human psyche and the effects of such a gift. The film focuses on the effects of regaining sight as opposed to explaining what is happening medically. Regardless of the lack of explanation, it’s unfortunate that more time is not spent on James (Dan Stevens) before this major event. In a stylistic introduction, we “see” this character only in the blurry edged gray of the opening credits. Director Ido Fluk (who also wrote the screenplay), in his first English language feature film, is in his element when focusing on the process of gaining and losing sight. Those visuals, paired with a powerful performance, are enough to put us in the shoes of our main character. This introduces him as a kind, loving, congenial, family man.
Not A One-Man Show: The true weakness of this film is the script. The relationships between the main characters, particularly James’ relationships with his wife Sam (Malin Ackerman) and his best friend Bob (Oliver Platt), feel, at times, grounded and real, but they also lack focus and completion, an error that might have been improved with a slower build toward James regaining his sight. Though the circular storytelling hinders pacing, it provides a seminal emotional moment. In a repetition of the parable of the ticket, James has a crisis of belief. The director smartly keeps his camera, helmed by cinematography Zack Geller, trained on the striking struggle as performed Dan Stevens. James is cast as a saint as a blind man, making his poor decisions, designed to cause difficulty in our rooting interest, ring the slightest bit false.
Problematic At Best: The Ticket makes some interesting (but misguided) attempts to discuss the lives of people who are blind. Due to the lack of focus on James before his miracle cure, we know nothing of his experience of being blind. The film falls into the well-worn traps of seeing our protagonist as lucky, when compared to his blind friends. There are numerous sequences involving James and Bob, which show a clear animosity due to his sight returning. If these scenes were fleshed out and we knew more about the history of this friendship, these scenes have the capability to be powerful and affecting.
Saving Grace: The script troubles are really a shame, because Dan Stevens puts in one of the best performances of his blossoming career. Each time that it would be easy for the audience to lose focus and not pay attention, Stevens yanks us back to focus on James’ journey. There is a moment late in the film when James reaches his emotional apex that despite the film’s issues, remains powerful. This moment of regret demands complete dedication from Stevens, and he absolutely delivers. Malin Ackerman and Oliver Platt also put in admirable performances, with what little they are given. Many of these flaws could have been improved with extending the runtime and focusing on James’s life prior to regaining his sight. This breathing space would allow not only for more complex relationships, but also for for the viewer to see James as a fully realized character before his life changes so dramatically.
Overall: Although The Ticket has some directorial issues, including uneven pacing and decisions to end scenes abruptly, there are moments that are worthy of our time. Dan Stevens gives a great showing, and a deeper script and more experienced director could likely have taken advantage of the talent and potential.