8 August 2005 | Buddy-51
compelling psychological thriller
Written and directed by Nick Willing, "Close Your Eyes" (aka "Doctor Sleep") is a taut, highly effective British thriller that supplements its crime drama scenario with generous helpings of the supernatural and paranormal.
Michael Strother is a hypnotherapist who has returned to England with his pregnant wife and young daughter after seven years living in the States. Strother is asked by one of his patients, a policewoman named Janet Losey, to bring his professional expertise to bear on one of her most baffling cases, that of a little girl who's managed to escape the clutches of a serial killer but who has been rendered mute by the experience. Strother's involvement leads to complications not only with the highly skeptical police force who are less than thrilled at the prospect of having a hynotherapist working on the case, but with his wife as well who fears that any untoward publicity might reflect badly on her husband's career. Of even more concern is the fact that Strother's involvement might also be making him and his own family a target of the killer.
It would hardly be cricket to reveal much more of the plot here, so I'll just say that "Close Your Eyes" boasts a better-than-average storyline, intriguing characters, an effective back story involving Strother's past in America, and enough genuine suspense to help us ride up and over some of the inconsistencies and absurdities inherent in the material. And if the resolution comes out as a bit flatfooted - well, that doesn't wind up being too much of a handicap since weak endings seem to be just about par for the course when it comes to these types of films anyway.
The prime selling point of "Close Your Eyes" is that it makes us care about the characters, particularly Strother, who elicits our interest and sympathy from the start. Goran Visnjic and Shirley Henderson make an engaging crime-fighting team with just the right amount of unrequited sexual chemistry bubbling under the surface to add to the tension.
As a director, Willing frequently interrupts the narrative with free-floating flashes of dreams, memories and hypnotic suggestions, reflective of what is occurring in the minds of the characters. The effect is sometimes confusing but almost always effective in ratcheting up the level of mystery and feeling of dislocation necessary for the story. The film is a bit gruesome and gory at times, but the prime focus almost always remains on the character's interactions and the unraveling of the plot. This is a solid, well-crafted thriller.