If you’re in search of a cross between “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Velvet Buzzsaw,” boy do I have a movie for you. “The Voyeurs,” just released on Amazon Prime Video, is a strange romp: softcore porn meets psychological thriller.
Pippa (Sydney Sweeney, “Euphoria”) and Thomas (Justice Smith, “Paper Towns”), young newlyweds, are overjoyed to move into their grand studio loft apartment in Montréal. They quickly realize that through their massive windows, they can see right into the apartment across the way. Their view affords them front-row seats to the raucous debauchery next door.
Pippa, who begins the film by proclaiming a desire to live largely and enjoy her youth before it evaporates, is entranced by this glimpse into another life. Thomas, on the other hand, enjoys the fun for a bit but quickly grows uneasy with their secret intrusion on the neighbors.
This difference in perspective becomes a thorn in Thomas and Pippa’s life together. The pair grow distant as Thomas feels inadequate and Pippa’s interest grows into obsession. It is not long until she takes things much too far.
There are many unrealistic moments in this film, the first and not least of which is the apartment. There is no way a young ophthalmologist-in-training and gig musician could possibly afford their place. More consequentially, when the psychological thriller’s twists are revealed (far too late in the film), they prompt groans rather than gasps. There is nothing shocking about this story.
“The Voyeurs” is not a good movie. It is campy, but not campy enough for this to be a redeeming characteristic. It is “psychological,” but in the wrong places. Supposedly thrilling surprises are clustered together in the final few minutes of the film, rather than dispersed more evenly to keep the viewer intrigued. Toxic relationships aren’t interrogated as such and the film makes no critical claims (and no effort to be self-critical, either).
The unfortunate thing is that this movie could have been good. The set-up is there, and I’ve seen short films that delicately negotiate the experience of peering in on another world. In this case, however, thoughtfulness and criticality are eschewed in favor of lasciviousness and an unexciting plot.
Sweeney’s performance is fine, though it lacks nuance. With a better script, she may have been able to bring depth to Pippa. Smith doesn’t seem to have been the right choice for the role, or the role was not right for him. Thomas’s music-man attitude didn’t add to the landscape of the film; the character is far too uptight than his personality suggests he would be, and Smith doesn’t seem to know how to make this contrast work in the film’s favor.
As a kinky, unrealistic, totally vicarious sexploit, “The Voyeurs” delivers. However, don’t expect great acting, great writing or greatness of any sort from this film. I’ll give kudos to director Michael Mohan (“Everything Sucks!”) for fairly high production value and an enjoyable visual experience (though the gorgeous apartment might deserve most of the credit for this).
The camerawork is deft, the colors are rich. Texturally, the film falls short — literally and figuratively. For a film largely about sex, the sense of touch is woefully underemphasized. Equally disappointing are the emotional textures of each character and scene. The film is very flat; the story progresses without development.
Unfortunately, Mohan is to blame for this last bit, and the rest, too. As screenwriter and director, most of the poor choices that made this film so unartistic and bland can be attributed to him. There is nothing to be learned or gained from this film; if you’re in it for the porn, just save yourself the time and support a sex worker on OnlyFans.
Daily Arts Writer Ross London can be reached at email@example.com.