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Blindess will not be winning any awards this season. I write about it as the award season’s first major flop. It has a serious topic and a heck of a pedigree, but it miscues in almost every possible way: character, plot, theme, style, message, but with the infuriating extra insult of having a kernel of promise.

A quick plot synopsis, because its anemic box office returns suggests you didn’t see it (and if I do my job you never will). Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore are an unnamed married couple in an unnamed city beset by an unnamed virus that renders its victims blind. God it sounds pretentious already, right? He is one of the first victims and is quarantined; she fakes blindness to stay with him and becomes the one sighted person incarcerated. The situation quickly deteriorates, with the blind using hallways for bathrooms, fornicating everywhere, and fighting over food. Another ward in the building seizes the food rations and demands money and sex in exchange. The ward with our heroes debates whether to meet those demands and/or fight back.

In other words, it’s pretty bleak.

There’s not much in the way of understatement in Blindness. Director Fernando Meirelles pounds the viewer over the head with his allegory for the evil of man and deterioration of society. Don’t you get it, we don’t see each other any more!!1! Then he goes and mucks it up with an incredibly unappealing and overbearing style where the colors are all washed out and overexposed, which just serves to obfuscate.

It’s a shame because the movie looks like such a winner on paper, with Moore, Ruffalo, and Gael Garcia Bernal as the evil ward leader. The novel the movie is based on was written by a Nobel Prize winner. Meirelles made one of the best films of the decade in City of God. He created the terrific “City of Men” franchise, with its successful multi-season Brazilian television series and feature film. His The Constant Gardener was mixed; it missed the mark thematically but was shot so gorgeously that it draws me in every time I pass it on cable. Director of Photography Cesar Charlone made City and Gardener so beautiful and stylish but Blindness so ugly, confusing, and pretentious. And it really could have been an interesting concept without being so relentlessly bleak and preachy. Really the only element I found consistently positive was the sets, which were always at least interesting.

Blindness is also one of those movies that just will not end. Sitting in the theater for two hours was painful enough, but it adds insult to injury going far past the climax to give it a drawn-out and annoyingly pat and convenient conclusion. What a mess.

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