Netflix’s Sightless Movie is a film with a killer twist that is right in front of our faces if we could just see it.
Unreliable narrators are, well, unreliable. It’s in the name. Films like the timeless and seemingly endless Rebecca and the trippy Hippopotamus rely on the audience’s belief in what they are told. Sightless, which is streaming on Netflix right now, uses that same premise. Everything we see and hear from the beginning is told from Ellen’s perspective. Unfortunately, that perception is seriously skewed by Clayton’s manipulations, mind control, and drug therapy(I use the word therapy loosely).
Ellen is brutally attacked and by an unknown masked assailant with long hair. He sprays something in her face, which makes her blind. At the hospital, a doctor tells her optic nerve is intact but seared by the chemicals. That’s the first clue something is wrong here. Next, she speaks with a detective. Ellen tells him her attacker felt like a man. Finally, she talks to her brother, who claims he arranged for her to live in an apartment in the city and have a caregiver named Clayton care for her. Later she arrives at her apartment with no recollection of the trip. Clayton explains all of it away by telling her the drugs she is on are powerful. Almost none of that is true. Here are all your questions answered about that wild Sightless ending.
Lana, who we later learn is Rachel, Clayton’s sister tells her not to ‘trust anyone” and “it is him.” Ellen should have listened to her. If only she weren’t so busy worrying about a nonexistent abusive husband. Clayton tells a story about his sickly mother and the make-believe games she would have him play. She built bird cages and filled them with birds that Clayton and his sister would make up stories about. This is likely where he got the idea to place Ellen in a birdcage of sorts. She wasn’t in a metal cage but a soundproof sealed off prison. She is a human version of Clayton’s gilded birds. When Ellen invites Lana/Rachel for tea, she acts strangely, and just before she runs out, Lana/Rachel tells Ellen to not “trust anyone” and “it is him.”
Those are both very odd things to say to someone you just met. Ellen feels Lana’s face and feels a freshly stitched wound. She thinks she calls the detective to report her neighbor’s potential domestic abuse, but the cop says Lana is in her forties(she isn’t) and does not have a fresh wound(she does). Both of these are obviously lies. When Clayton and Lana/Rachel’s mother died, he didn’t just lock Clayton in the cellar but also smashed all the cages killing the birds. Judging from Lana/Rachel’s fragile state, the assumption is her father probably abused her too, and Clayton has been continuing that abuse. She is terrified of Clayton but is just as much a prisoner as Ellen.
What is wrong with Clayton?
He’s one sick twist. Clayton is a grade-A gaslighter and everything he tells Ellen is designed to make her scared, reliant on him, and compliant. His father locked him in the cellar for three years in the dark. Clayton had nothing but his imagination and the distant music heard through the vents to keep him company. The music he heard was Ellen’s who was a child prodigy violin player. Basically, he is nothing more than a pathetic fanboy.
He has a disassociative personality disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder. During the course of the film, Clayton plays the caregiver, a nurse, a doctor, a paramedic, her neighbor’s husband, and a detective. Each of the characters he played was very real to him. When Ellen askes him to leave the others behind and be only Clayton at the end, he says he can’t. He claims they are as big a part of him as he is. At that moment, Ellen gets the courage to try one last time to escape. Each time Ellen heard a knock that was Clayton transitioning from one character to another. It was a tick of sorts that allowed him to seamlessly shift from one persona to another.
Poor blind and traumatized Ellen, Madelaine Petsch, taking a profound departure from Riverdale’s Cheryl, is told right from the beginning that everything she imagines about how things look is based on her perception. Everything is by her choice. It is more manipulations than reality, however. The bird Clayton gives Ellen is first green and later blue when Clayton urges her to decide what color she wants it to be. Everything you need to know about Sightless boils down to that one single exchange that foreshadows everything that happens at the end. She is a beautiful bird, locked in a cage, and everything around her is what Clayton wants it to be, or at least what he wants her to perceive it to be. As Ellen puts it, “Perception is my only reality.”
What happens at the end of Sightless?
All along Ellen begins to have doubts about where she is and what is happening around her. It isn’t until she tries to kill herself though does she put the pieces together. Clayton trained her too well because the car alarm that always went off at 11:03 was a clue after all. He had kept a recording of outside street noise taped to the top of her soundproof prison. After trying to fall to her death she realizes she is not in her apartment but in a prison meant to feel like her apartment.
Clayton next uses her fear and confusion to tell her another “truth”. Clayton says her brother paid for a facility that will help her ease into her new blind world and deal with the trauma of her attack. He claims Lana next door is also a patient and her husband checked her out to change treatments. She wisely does not believe him now and attempts an escape. She bashes him over the head, tazes him, and later spits chemicals in his eyes making him blind. We last see her fleeing with Lana/Rachel.
Is Ellen Blind?
It’s very possible she was only temporarily blind and now has inattentional blindness or perceptual blindness, once known as hysterical blindness. Clayton has been pumping her full of drugs from the beginning, and the traumatic events of her attack and subsequent kidnapping have convinced her she can’t see. The final scene shows her preparing to play for an adoring audience her violin. It isn’t entirely clear if she has her sight or not. She has at least reclaimed her agency and her love of music. However, nothing would surprise me. Clayton may have got himself together, retaken her, and convinced her she was playing for a large audience with hot lights, more character voices, and noise.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.