All Eyes On You

The mystery genre normally revolves around finding the solution to a puzzle by way of a sleuthy protagonist. As they follow a scattershot trail of vague clues and twisting antagonistic plots, they can only rely on observation, deduction, and luck to scrape along by the skin of their teeth (as reliable friends and happy endings are hardly guaranteed). Felix Maxim Eller has dunked this simple thematic through-line into a standard neo-noir plot and somehow muddled it with pseudo-psychosis and theocratic inference to where its (now) borderline incoherent narrative is completely devoid of tension or mystery. All Eyes on You is extraordinarily well-produced, driven by its stunning visuals, however, it’s plotting, dialogue and characters are utterly inane and tedious.

“…a soft-spoken loner, drifting through late night spots until he meets Elena…then spends many subsequent nights searching for her.”

Marco (Jannis Küster) is a soft-spoken loner, drifting through late night spots until he meets Elena (Anna Sacher) as she is tending bar at a local club. This brief encounter sinks deep into Marco’s mind as he then spends many subsequent nights searching for her. On Halloween night, as he makes another attempt to find her at a play for which she served as an understudy, he notices and is soon hounded and pursued by a mysterious hooded man (Elvis Clausen). As the night continues on, he meets and inadvertently assembles the motley crew of Mia (Clara Imort), who is constantly trying to dodge a wandering band of drunken loudmouths, and Gabriel (André Decker) a helpful amnesiac wielding a trumpet. As his search for Elena throws him deeper into the local underworld, it is uncertain as to why Marco is still chasing her, and as to what is still chasing him.

This movie wants to be a little of everything. There are numerous elements that could be taken as allusions to other films dealing with similar themes, tones, and visuals (Vertigo, Drive, Fallen), and the filmmakers certainly strive to emulate similar depth to those works. However, it comes off more like The Girl Is in Trouble; a “mystery” hallmarked by nonsensical blocking, non-existent tension, and characters that don’t particularly enjoy thinking rationally. This is most clearly expressed through the film’s unwillingness to abide by its own world rules, constantly negating prior events and information, rendering almost everyone’s motivations and actions moot. I was asking where the film was going roughly every scene, and it never became remotely clear or concise until the last act.

“…depth and texture of each shot are only matched by his excellent exploitation of each location’s intrinsic kinetic atmosphere.”

Marco is a blanker slate than Commander Shepard, so it’s no significant fault of Küster that his performance was so stilted. Honestly, that can be said of all the actors, because talents are truly on display when a serious moment is managed, yet the cast has very little substantive material from which to work. There were even times that an anecdote being discussed casually by the supporting characters would have been better story arc to follow than the actual one I was watching. Having said that, Daniel Ernst’s cinematography may some of the best in a fictional film that has been released this year (and this is his debut feature). The depth and texture of each shot are only matched by his excellent exploitation of each location’s intrinsic kinetic atmosphere. While the story elements may be jumbled and constantly out-of-place, Ernst’s efforts certainly are not.

This is a beautifully filmed hot mess but mess nevertheless. With little to no plot development or characterization, nothing made me care for the characters or their goals, all culminating with an even more lackluster ending (if you can believe it) that negates most of the characters’ efforts exerted in the film’s climax. All Eyes on You had potential to turn well-worn tropes on their ears and had the visual chops to pull off something unique, but it ultimately is a forgettable slog through monotony and boredom.

All Eyes on You (2018) Directed by Felix Maxim Eller. Written by Felix Maxim Eller. Starring Jannis Küster, Anna Sacher, Elvis Clausen, Clara Imort, André Decker. All Eyes on You screened at the 2018 Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.

4 out of 10

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