Eye of the Beholder (film)

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Eye of the Beholder
International release poster
Directed by Stephan Elliott
Produced by Nicolas Clermont
Screenplay by Stephan Elliott
Based on The Eye of the Beholder 
by Marc Behm
Music by Marius de Vries
Cinematography Guy Dufaux
Edited by Sue Blainey
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 28 August 1999 (1999-08-28) (South Korea)
  • 28 January 2000 (2000-01-28) (United States)
  • 9 June 2000 (2000-06-09) (United Kingdom)
  • 10 August 2000 (2000-08-10) (Australia)
Running time
109 minutes[1]
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
Language English
Budget $35 million
Box office $17.6 million

Eye of the Beholder is a 1999 Canadian-British-Australian mystery thriller film that employs magical realism. The film, based on Marc Behm's novel of the same name and a remake of Claude Miller's 1983 French thriller Deadly Circuit, is directed and adapted by Stephan Elliott.

Starring Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd, the film is an international co-production of Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.


Stephen Wilson, aka "The Eye" (Ewan McGregor), spies on office workers in the neighboring building having sex, then humiliates them by sending photos of their tryst to their colleagues. From the beginning, Stephen appears to be slightly off kilter, having used a gunstock to take aim at the office workers and later pining over an old photo of his estranged daughter's elementary school class. On the back of the photo is written "Guess which one is your daughter, you asshole! Go Fuck Yourself. Margaret!" Not knowing which girl is his daughter, he randomly chooses one to call "Lucy".

Stephen is soon contacted by his handler, Hilary (k.d. lang), at the British Consulate in Washington D.C., on behalf of their boss, Mr. Hugo (Vlasta Vrana), who asks Stephen to follow his 22-year-old son, who has recently stolen money from his trust account. As Stephen begins to track his boss's son, he has a surrealistic or imagined a conversation with Lucy (Ann-Marie and Kaitlin Brown), the first of many in the film. Stephen photographs the son's rendezvous with a woman (Ashley Judd), but the woman also sees Stephen take her photo. Later, Stephen sets up surveillance equipment at the son's home, enabling him to overhear the conversation and beginnings of a sexual encounter between the son and this woman. The woman asks the son about the money he has withdrawn from his trust fund and describes herself as a selfish, manic depressive Pisces. In the guise of playing a sex game, she orders him to get down on a sheet of plastic that she has laid out. She then stabs him to death. Oddly, she becomes distraught, cries, and yells out "Merry Christmas, Daddy." She then drags the dead body (wrapped in the plastic sheeting) to a dock, where she drops it into the water. Stephen watches as she rinses the blood off of her naked body and takes off a brown wig. Stephen imagines Lucy's voice saying "Don't leave her Daddy. She's just a little girl. Don't leave her alone." He seems to take these words to heart, following her by car as she drives away.

Stephen follows the woman to the train station in Pittsburgh, where he is finally able to telephone Hilary. He begins to report having tracked the woman, but becomes distracted by his vision of Lucy, who tells him not to report her. He hangs up on Hilary in order to follow the woman onto a train bound for New York City. Before departing, he buys a snow-globe for Lucy, one of a large collection that he amasses in the course of the film. On the train, an unyielding man tries to flirt with the woman. At dinner, he brags to her about a large jewel he has just gotten back from his previous flame. When the train stops in the morning, Stephen discovers that the man is dead. The woman disembarks and walks off. As usual, the she is elegantly dressed, superbly groomed, and appears in an obviously different wig and outfit than she did previously. While walking away from the train, she drops a large shopping bag, presumably containing the previous wig, in a trash can and steals another passenger's fur coat. She seems to have reinvented herself, yet again, in the process of moving on.

In New York City, she sells the large jewel. She then goes to a park and watches fathers and daughters playing together. This seems to peak her longing, as she later suggests to a man that they should have children together. Stephen sees much of this; he has continued to stalk her. He moves into the apartment next to hers, sets up a camera and microphone outside her window, and monitors her moves. When she takes a bath, he leans against the wall between their bathrooms and strokes the wall in the region of her pelvis. He longs for her.

Stephen is not the only person who pursues her. A group of men call after and harass her during her walk through the city. She dispatches them with a few strikes. An undercover police officer tracks her to her apartment. As he is leaning over her, checking her out in anticipation of a bribe of sexual favors, she casually takes his gun and shoots him before running off. Stephen, who has observed this scene through his surveillance equipment, rushes into her apartment to get one of her pubic hairs from her bathtub. He also grabs her necklace, Pisces pendant, and the gun.

Stephen follows her to an airport. There, he has another surrealistic or imaginary conversation with Lucy. He says that if he blinks, he could lose track of the woman he is following, like he lost Lucy and his former wife and almost lost his mind. At the airport, the woman stops a waiter from cheating a blind man, Alexander Leonard (Patrick Bergin). They strike up a conversation, during which she identifies herself as Charlotte Vincent and tells him that she studies numerology. She decides to take the same flight as he takes. Stephen follows them to San Francisco, where he sets himself up in an apartment and contacts Hilary for the first time in weeks. He lies to her, telling her that he is still following Hugo's son and asks her to run an analysis of a pubic hair that he will send her. He tells her nothing about his pursuit of the woman alone.

He, again, monitors the woman's apartment and trails her. While she is out, he places her necklace and Pisces pendant on a side table for her to find. She attributes the gift to Mr. Leonard, her style of address for Alexander Leonard, although that is not plausible and when Mr. Leonard is told about it, he denies having given it to her. Mr. Leonard gives her something much larger, the use of a store where she can set up a numerology shop. Stephen immediately moves into the bell tower above a church across the street. His reaction to her romance with Alexander Leonard is sadness and jealousy.

Hilary reports on the DNA from the pubic hair. It came from Joanna Eris, a woman with a juvenile probation record. Thinking that he has "met an extraordinary woman" who needs his help, he quits his job and flies off to Boston to meet with Joanna's former counselor. But, even while flying on the plane, he monitors her apartment. This is when he learns about her childhood. When she was 9 years old, she and her father were homeless. While she was out getting something for him for Christmas, he disappeared. Telling this story upsets her. Alexander Leonard comforts her; he tells her that he will always be there for her and that he loves her. Thus, he provides for her the stability that her real father didn't. Stephen watches through his monitoring equipment and hears Lucy tell him not to leave Joanna alone.

Stephen talks with Joanna's former counselor from her time in juvenile detention, Dr. Jeanne Brault (Genevieve Bujold), who expresses her opinion that Joanne was basically good, but harmed by the detention system. It appears that the relationship between Brault and the young Joanna was overly close and odd, such that Joanna adopted Brault's favorite brand of cigarettes, alcoholic beverage, habit of wearing a zodiac symbol as a pendant, and habit of wearing wigs. While acknowledging the relationship, Brault says that she taught Joanna how to survive in a survival of the fittest world. One of these techniques is to never reveal herself.

On his return flight, Stephen is heartened to read that Joanna's horoscope tells her to "tie up all loose ends before you move on", which he thinks means to end her relationship with Alexander Leonard, and "your true companion still waits patiently in the wings", which he thinks refers to his love for Joanna. Back in California, he continues to stalk Joanna and Alexander. At the Leonard estate, he overhears Joanna propose marriage to Alexander and explain why she wants to be with him (because he cannot see who she really is). Carried away with emotion, Stephen both assaults Alexander and warns him that Joanna will kill him. The next morning, Alexander comes to pick up Joanna for a surprise wedding. She tells him that he is going to become a father, a thought that pleases both of them. Watching and listening from the bell tower, Stephen tries to stop them by shooting at their car. This kills Alexander. Joanna cries and screams unconsolably. She goes to his funeral and then leaves town. Stephen follows her as she takes a meandering path through California, Nevada, and Utah. After her car runs out of gas, a man named Gary (Jason Priestley, with bleached blond hair) tows her to a gas station. They hang out at his place, but seem to despise each other. Gary offers her drugs, but when she refuses, he beats her into unconsciousness. He implies that he is going to cut her up and he then injects her with the drugs. He is sitting on top of her unconscious body and leaning over her as if to kiss her when Stephen's knocking at the door distracts him. Stephen beats Gary to bloody unconsciousness, then goes to Joanna.

In a surreal or imaginary conversation, Joanna says "Don't leave her, she's just a little girl, don't leave her alone" and he promises to never ever leave her. In the morning, Stephen puts Gary in the trunk of a car, then sets it to drive in circles. While he is out, Joanna drives off. Stephen contacts Hilary. She tries to recall him from the field, but he won't return. She eventually helps him find Joanna in a hospital in Chicago. She has given birth to a girl, but the child has died. He visits while Joanna is asleep or unconscious and slips a wedding ring onto her finger. Later, one of the nurses explains to her that a man came while she was unconscious. She continues to wear the ring on her finger. As Joanna leaves the hospital, Stephen sees that the authorities are tracking her. He later sabotages their attempt to arrest her by shooting at them.

Seeing the shoot out, Joanna flees to a remote part of Alaska. She takes up a job as a waitress at a diner, Cafe at the End of the World. For the first time she dresses plainly. Men in the diner pursue after her, but she brushes them off. She seems to have turned a new leaf. Stephen also moves to Alaska and starts to frequent the diner. He eventually gets to spend time with her and learns that she has a great sense of loss, having lost her childhood, her father, her "husband", and her daughter. She thinks that she's losing her mind because she thinks she had a guardian angel who looked after her. (She still wears the ring.) She wishes that he would come back and bury her in her favorite graveyard. Stephen then tells her what it is that he lost, his daughter, and explains that the loss came about because of the frequent dislocations caused by his Embassy job. He tells Joanna that he is a father who has lost his little girl and Joanna is a little girl who has lost her father.

The next day, the policemen who have been tracking Joanne appear ready to arrest her, but Joanna and Stephen elude them. They go to his trailer, which is so oddly decorated that she becomes suspicious of him. He has left a gun loaded with blanks, cash, and car keys out in plain sight and tells her that the police probably plan to arrest one of the staff members at the diner. He offers her a drink of cognac, which had been her favorite alcoholic beverage. She says that she has seen him before, but he denies that. She grabs the gun and aims it at him. Seeing that he has a zodiac pendant and her brand of cigarettes, too, freaks her out. She shoots him and escapes in his car.

While driving, she recalls seeing him in various locations over the last couple of years and cries. Stephen chases after her, using another road. As the both of them reach the place where their roadways merge, she drives off the road and into a frozen lake. Stephen drags her from the car. She says that she knows who he is and that she wishes him love. The movie ends with a song "Goodbye ..." and a picture of an angel statue, but doesn't clearly indicate whether Joanna lived or died.

Alternate endings[edit]

The DVD includes two alternate endings, in which Stephen catches up to Joanna while driving. They reach out to each other, looking at each other rather than the road. At the moment that their fingers touch, the car she is in leaves the road and crashes through the surface of a frozen lake and Stephen rushes to her. She tells him that she knows who he is and that she wishes him love.

In the alternate ending, Stephen visits her grave in a cemetery overlooked by the angel statue as the song "Goodbye ..." plays in the background. As he leaves, he notices a girl kneeling by the grave of her mother, Margaret Wilson. He realizes that this is his daughter, Lucy, and that she is another girl in the elementary school class photograph he's been carrying. They shake hands, revealing that she wears a zodiac charm. Destiny has reunited him with his little girl, at last.



Box office[edit]

Eye of the Beholder was a financial failure in theaters, grossing $16,500,786 domestically and $1,088,919 overseas for a worldwide total of $18,260,865 on a $35 million budget.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received largely negative reviews, with critics panning the improbable and muddled plot, as well as Elliott's direction.[3][4][5] The film currently holds a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 86 reviews. The site's consensus reads "Improbable and muddled."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a 29/100 rating based on 26 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[7] CinemaScore gave it rating of "F" based on surveys from general audiences.


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