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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 67:13)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
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  • Theatrical trailer

At First Sight

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 136 mins . G . PAL


AT FIRST SIGHT is an effective romance piece starring Val Kilmer as Virgil, a blind small-town masseur, and Mira Sorvino as Amy, a New York-based architect who falls for his soulful touch. The arc of their relationship follows your standard four-act drama: courtship, hot sex, conflict, and resolution. Woven into this structure are several subplots which flesh out the characters nicely and rescue the movie from the clutches of banality.

The main thread -- referenced in the movie's title -- concerns the restoration of Virgil's sight after being blind since toodlerhood. While the possibility of Virgil seeing again has Amy in raptures, Virgil's sister and carer Jennie (played by an aging Kelly McGillis) makes her objections clear. Is she jealous of Amy's attentions or is she just being protective? Meanwhile in New York, Virgil and Amy discover that the process of learning to see places pressure on the lives of everyone involved. Gone are the days of Virgil teaching Amy how to listen to rain, and Amy describing what the horizon looks like to Virgil -- dead conversations and walking through panes of glass are but some of their new grievances. Luckily for them an eminently likeable vision therapist called Phil Webster (Nathan Lane) provides some much needed guidance and support for the struggling couple, and some welcome comic relief for the audience.

This story, which was "inspired" by a true case of blind love, deals with issues beyond the mechanics of learning to see and affairs of the heart. The characters gain insights about who they are and learn to break molds formed during the long courses of their lives (a metaphor executed brilliantly with Amy's sculpture). As Virgil says, "When you see what's real about yourself, you've seen a lot. You don't need eyes for that." Not a particularily deep statement, but one that is nevertheless true for many of us.

MGM's presentation of the aforementioned saga does justice to the subject matter and therefore aids the telling of it. Or, from another point of view, places no obstacles in its path. No matter which angle you look at it, this DVD is an excellent way to experience AT FIRST SIGHT.


At first sight, the picture looked fairly dull. As the movie progressed I realised that the cinematography by John Seale was designed to follow Virgil's journey from physiological and emotional darkness into enlightenment. This being the case, I could only make a well-rounded assessment of the image quality toward the end of the feature!

Generally MGM has accorded AT FIRST SIGHT a sharp anamorphic transfer framed at 1.78:1. Colours are saturated and shadow detail is acceptable. Film artefacts (grit and other marks) are more frequent than they should be, although they can be igorned easily by a casual viewer. Considering the film's recent vintage (some cheap Chardonay I drank last week was older) one might expect a better result. With much of the action occuring on dark or overcast wintery days, the choice of film stock may have limited the level of obtainable detail. Hence, mild film grain is apparent from time to time. I saw no MPEG artefacts.

The layer change at 1:07:31 was jarring, but at least it happened between one dialogue scene and the next, not mid-scentence.


The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track contains a number of directional effects as well as the usual rear channel ambient sound chores. Cars driving past, rain gurgling through a drain pipe, thunder, and chirping birds are detailed elegantly throughout the feature. Dialogue was clear and centred, although some awkward ADR work was noticable during one conversation between Virgil and Amy.

My B&W subwoofer enjoyed the moments of Virgil's first look at the outside world for years, and I had the distinct impression that the sound designers relished the chance to handle something more challenging. Diana Krall's stirring number 'Love is Where You Are' sounds marvellous as her voice fills the lounge room. The song is repeated without dialogue or effects during the end credits.

Overall, AT FIRST SIGHT contains a large array modest of surround effects which is, for a character driven film like this, more than necessary to tell the story. Nice one.


The only extra provided is the anamorphic theatrical trailer. A glimpse of Virgil staring at a model taxi is not in the final picture.


Look, in one spot it made me teary. Forgetting the anamorphic enhancement and 5.1 digital sound, AT FIRST SIGHT succeeds as a love story. God, the last time I wept like that was when I saw my bank balance after paying for the home theatre upgrade, or the first time I saw A BUG'S LIFE R4 on DVD.

Mira Sorvino and Val Kilmer are quite good in their respective roles, with Sorvino being blown around several emotional compass points, and Kilmer especially pulling off a convincing blind man impersonation. Considering that I had Al Pacino's Academy Award-winning performance in SCENT OF A WOMAN fresh in my mind, Kilmer measured up favourably. The DVD itself has a good transfer and sound mix. Still, with no extras besides a trailer this is probably a good rental candidate unless you are a fan of the film, or its leads.

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