Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (CITY OF GOD) brings Jose Saramago's much-loved novel BLINDNESS to the screen with this ambitious adaptation. Like Saramago's book, Meirelles chooses to forfeit names for his characters, instead spinning BLINDNESS around the plight of a doctor and his wife (respectively played by Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore). A blindness epidemic strikes an unnamed city, forcing the government to put many citizens in quarantine, including Ruffalo's doctor. Unable to conceive of life without him, Moore's character feigns blindness and joins him in the grimy high-security institution where visually impaired citizens are kept. Their attempt to survive in the rotting facility, which quickly falls into disrepair and chaos, forms the backbone of Meirelles's movie. There's a twist in the tale as Ruffalo and Moore's characters struggle to lead the blind to a place where they can come to terms with their condition, and Meirelles makes the journey deeply unsettling.
An impressive cast ably backs Ruffalo and Moore, including Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Alice Braga. Their performances give a palpable feeling of what it's like to be blind, and even provide a few moments of dark comedy as they stumble through the institution in which they're imprisoned. Meirelles's movie, which essentially functions as an allegory for societal collapse, is an alarming and often distressing look at the dark side of human nature. The director often saturates the film with milky white color, reflecting the bright light the blind see when the condition besets them. This glare often makes it difficult to look at the screen, inflicting Meirelles's audience with a feeling of momentary blindness. An atmosphere of tangible dread manifests itself as BLINDNESS progresses, and the ugly scenes of rape and brawling, largely caused by the meager food rationing among the blind, makes for emotional viewing.