A young escort and hustler named Paul hits the streets to look for his missing twin brother. The different sexual encounters bring out surrealistic visions in Paul and soon he desires more and more sex, which increasingly become more violent. So he can continue to see these visions and try to understand what they mean and how they relate to his brother. His journey to find answers lands him on the doorstep of a porn director, who takes Paul in and will inevitably lead him down a dark path that very well could destroy Paul from the inside out.
I'm usually hesitant when it comes to gay-cinema since, well, I'm a typical guy, but also because I've always felt it was nothing more than the usual self-identifying drama that I couldn't relate to or understand. But when Breaking Glass Pictures sent me "Seeing Heaven" from their QC Cinema line, I figured I would give it a go since it's labeled as a great visualistic thriller in the vein of David Lynch. The David Lynch reference is far from a selling point for me, but I'm always down to check out a movie that's willing to explore visuals when telling a story.
Sadly though, I didn't think the movie quite had a handle on the visuals and the psychological aspect of the story that I thought it would. "Seeing Heaven" is about Paul, a hustler who hits the streets trying to find his twin brother but suffers from hallucinations and nightmares, usually brought on by violence or aggressive sex. Paul's desire to find his brother, of course, sends him on a dark journey where his reality becomes unraveled.
The story to "Seeing Heaven" certainly lends itself to have Lynch-style surrealism with the nightmares and also add a Cronenberg psycho-sexual aspect to it as well. Instead it plays up the sex aspect pretty safely and never goes too far with it or uses it the way the story wanted it to. Then visuals become nothing more than Italian Gothic-horror call-backs with a mysterious figure in black and colorfully lit scenes. It's not bad by any means but I think this is an aspect of the movie that could have been stronger and would have really helped the movie stand out.
What makes "Seeing Heaven" work is the writing and the story. It doesn't become too obvious in the beginning but when you watch it, and in the conclusion, you begin to realize that the movie is a modern adaptation of the story of Narcissus. The character-mythos of a person who was loved and desired by so many that he distance himself from everyone, but eventually died after falling in love with his own reflection by never looking away. Both with the directing and writing, Ian Powell blends in the story of Narcissus into the story of his character Paul, who is essentially trying to find himself by finding his brother. It becomes an interesting character story, even though the thriller and visual part doesn't support the movie the way it could have.
"Seeing Heaven" is a good movie but it also could have been better. On the technical side, it's a good production all around with everything from the cinematography to the acting. The writing and parts of the story are exceptional and helps keep the movie not only afloat but going as well. As it stands though, it is another movie about a character dealing with self-identity by trying to find himself as he becomes lost in a dark world. Had the movie explored some of the other elements of the story and really played around with the visuals and Paul's reality. I think "Seeing Heaven" could have become a more noteworthy title, but as it is, it's only mediocre since it never gets to be as engaging as it could have been.