Dan Stevens delivers a powerhouse performance in Ido Fluk’s philosophical family drama The Ticket. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film tackles themes about faith, the virtues of comfort and the easy descent a man takes when given the slippery slope option of “more.”
James (Stevens) is content with his life, repeating a mantra like prayer each night before he sleeps that he is satisfied with his life. Blind since childhood, one morning he awakens with his vision inexplicably restored. Elated, James quickly begins making changes, much to the concern of his iron willed wife (Malin Akerman). He chases a promotion at his job, leaving his friend Bob (Oliver Platt) behind. He styles his hair differently and invests in tailored suits. He buys a fancy new car and goes to his son’s school to stand up for him when he believes he’s been unjustly punished.
From the opening moments we’re given a taste of the journey this film will be taking us on as we see the world from James’s point of view, immersing us into the sounds surrounding him and the bits of light he might be seeing. We hear the warmth in his voice and the love he has for his wife. Then, as his sight begins to repair, we see the world around him just as hazily, the sun too bright and breeze coming in through the window breathes new life, fresh vigor into James and with his sight intact makes a pointed choice to turn his life around.
The film is stunning visually from beginning to end, no shot wasted. Cinematographer Zack Galler isolates James when he’s been selfish and pushed people away and uses whites and grays to surround him when he’s at his utmost lowest. The interiors of his life are shot in stark contrast to when he’s outdoors or with his family, particularly at the dance he and his wife attend. There’s a warmth in the latter while the former is simply chilly, bereft of any sense of life.
Stevens is truly a revelation here, especially for those who hadn’t seen his prior work in either Downton Abbey or The Guest. From the initial shock at his sight being back where his feelings of unbelievable joy seep through the screen to his his cool, collected persona he adopts when he tries to separate himself from his fellow co-workers to a breakdown sequence that is genuinely jarring in just how hard it is to watch, as he falls to pieces before us, causing the audience to take on the uncomfortable voyeuristic position, as if we’re watching something we shouldn’t. It’s an electric performance in a film where he easily could have chosen to play it small.
What does it means to be blind is the question the film persistently asks the audience as we watch James become increasingly wrapped up in his own selfish desires, unable to see past his own debilitating ego. Fluk’s fable tackles weighty topics without ever feeling heavy handed and while there is certainly an undercurrent of faith, it’s more an exploration of what faith means and it’s foibles rather than a cautionary tale to those who don’t believe. James for so long has accepted the life he’s been given to him and what he believes to be true, that he has a good and decent life. When he’s given this gift of sight he begins to believe that he was always destined for more, that his wife pities him, and it’s then that he begins to ask for more. Written by both Fluk and Sharon Mashihi, the script refuses to pain itself with the task of making James a sympathetic character – he does a lot of terrible things and he does them so rapidly that you have to wonder if this personality has been sitting dormant for all these years or if it was spurned by circumstance. It also however doesn’t ask us to judge him. Instead, it asks the question about what would we do if we were given the same chance?