At First Sight

At First Sight tells the story of Shirl Jennings, who became blind when afflicted at age 3 with polio, meningitis, and cat-scratch fever. Shirl (played by Val Kilmer), nevertheless, appears to have adjusted happily to life as a blind person, and he enjoys the profession of masseur. In the film, a busy architect (played by Mira Sorvino) from New York City is charmed by his serenity while she is at a health resort upstate, though in real life he first gave her a massage at the YMCA in DeKalb Country near Atlanta. In the film it is love at first touch (though in real life, love dawned twenty years later after she divorced her husband). Realizing that she has fallen in love with Shirl, she makes what may be a mistake in trying to change Shirl by suggesting that new technologies can restore sight to the blind, and he decides out of love and hope to undergo an operation that would make medical history by removing cataracts from his otherwise healthy retinas. The operation, performed in 1991, is a success, but Shirl finds himself even more confused than before because he cannot immediately decode the visual images before him. Through therapy, he learns to decode the images, and he enjoys regaining his sight. However, he soon develops pneumonia, and for the second time his eyesight leaves him. He then reverts to his former happy self, marries his sweetheart, while showing no regret over losing vision again. The film shows that the serenity of a disabled person is the knowledge that there are always loving people to help and appears to caution us about urging a disabled person to seek an impossible cure when love itself is the cure for so many ills. MH