The Way They See Us is directed by Mariah Proctor and is about a girl, Alexis, who is trying to impress a guy named Wes. Alexis is an aspiring actress who wants her big break and also wants Wes to fall in love with her. There is a “sub plot” between a homeless man and Alexis’s character, but that doesn’t become relevant till the very end of the story. It may feel like I’ve only delved into the surface level of this film so far. Sadly, there’s not much else to this film, and it suffers from breaking one of the biggest rules in storytelling; show, don’t tell.
Everything that actually happens in this movie is happening off camera. What you do see is all filmed inside Alexis’s car, where she’s either reciting lines for her next audition or talking to herself about Wes. It’s all with the camera never leaving her Prius. The problem with that choice is simple: we never actually see the moments we’re being asked to relate to and understand. The camera never goes into those auditions with Alexis, and it never follows her and Wes when they leave the car in the most critical moment in the film. The director just expects you to “fill in the blanks,” but because you never get to see the important moments, you don’t care about them when you need to. When it comes to storytelling, I really like the quote by Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass,” and I think it’s the first thing I would improve on the film.
As for the main character, Alexis, there aren’t really any moments of progression. Through the entire story, she’s seeking approval from Wes and relies on men’s approval consistently throughout the film. It starts from the moment when she’s about to audition for a big role and declares before getting out of her car, “I’m beautiful because Wes said I was beautiful,” and goes as far as seeking validation from a homeless man she’d just met and whose only purpose was to give her character a pep talk and send her on her way. She had no character arc, and never seemed very empowered. Because of this, it all just seems pointless.
Wes is hardly in it and had a tough time with his lines. He never really felt believable, and you don’t get enough time to really get to know his character. As for the homeless man, I can say his scene in the end was the most engaging, but still not enough to save the movie from its weak story and underdeveloped characters.
There are some silver linings, though. The shots are framed well and there are a couple jokes in the movie that made me smile. This director needs to keep making films and should work to “show, not tell” with whatever her next project is. Making a film is incredibly difficult, and I admire the courage and effort it took to get this made. Overall, ‘The Way They See Us’ simply isn’t where it needs to be. With a shallow story, weak characters, and a lack of movement in its camerawork, the film runs out of gas really quick and is never able to start up again.