After Cecilia escapes the clutches of her abusive boyfriend Adrian, she’s informed of his apparent suicide. Believing he faked his death and is still stalking her, Cecilia deduces that Adrian has turned himself invisible and is making her look insane.
Loosely based on H. G. Wells’ 1897 novel of the same name, which was also adapted in 1933 as part of the Universal Monsters Universe. Another loose adaptation was made in 2000 by Paul Verhoeven, called Hollow Man, starring Kevin Bacon.
Admittedly Hollow Man is the only version of the story I had seen before this. While it was enjoyable, it was basically a sci-fi slasher film, with fabulous special effects and Kevin Bacon hamming it up. This film however, approaches the story as a psychological thriller, where we can’t tell how much of it is real and how much is in the head of our protagonist.
Everything in this film is shown entirely from Cecilia’s perspective, having escaped a controlling and abusive relationship, she’s a character clearly paranoid, therefore at times it’s hard to tell if she really is being stalked or if she’s driving herself crazy. We never get to see what her relationship with Aiden was truly like before she escapes, we only know what was going on from what Cecilia says went on. So as an audience we constantly question how much of the abuse is true as we question the sanity of Cecilia’s character.
This is an effective commentary on abusive relationships, we often don’t see what happens behind closed doors so we’re unaware of the physical and psychological abuse that goes on. When the victims try to tell people what’s going on, the abuser would make them look like they’re losing their mind and may even convince their victim of such as well.
Elizabeth Moss is amazing as Cecilia, she deserves an Academy Award nomination as this could not have been an easy role for any actor to portray. She’s very convincing as someone who’s living in constant fear and watching her back everywhere she goes, as well as possibly being mentally ill. At the same time she makes you root for her, you may question Cecilia’s sanity but you also want her to be right and prove it to everyone.
The cinematography is extremely effective, there are several internal shots that are long distance and are either static or slow – giving the feeling that someone is watching Cecilia from another room. There are shots where Cecilia is looking at walls or doors as if she knows Adrian is actually there, these are done at low angles, making us feel as if someone is there.
Director Leigh Whannell makes the wise choice to make the invisibility effects as minimalistic as possible, keeping it limited to briefly showing moving objects, footprints appearing, flashes of the invisibility suit etc. The main focus is on Elizabeth Moss’ reactions to what is going on. It's impressive watching her actually fight with something that isn’t there.
The film also has incredibly effective visual storytelling, there are slow scenes without dialogue. Especially the opening five minutes where we follow Cecilia cleverly sneaking out of Adrian’s high-tech house in the middle of the night. The scene itself could serve as a training film for domestic abuse victims to follow.
Also the final scene of this film is incredibly satisfying, it’s a slow scene with a lot of suspense. You have no idea where it is going and it completely pulls the rug out from under you in the best way possible.
Written by Jack Parish