Courtesy of Sébastien Raymond/Item7
Big Brother is always watching, this much we know — but what if he’s also a stand-up guy who really cares about you? That, somewhat dubiously, is the premise of “Eye on Juliet,” a long-distance love story that will surely remain the only film in history to remind viewers at points of both “Eye in the Sky” and “An Affair to Remember.” Canadian writer-director Kim Nguyen’s fanciful tale of a Detroit drone operator losing his heart to a North African surveillance subject is naive by design, as it imagines a future utopia where both physical and cultural distances can be bridged through empathy, with a heavy assist from technology. Yet this well-meaning film winds up seeming more than a little obtuse in its flat avoidance of geopolitical detail, not helped by disproportionately faint sketching of its non-western characters — a disappointment from the talented filmmaker behind “War Witch,” 2012’s vivid, Oscar-nominated study of African child soldiers.
Between that film and this one, Nguyen signaled his interest in romantic fabulism with “Two Lovers and Bear,” an Arctic sweethearts’ duet between Dane DeHaan and Tatiana Maslany that managed modest U.S. distribution; “Eye on Juliet” may prove a harder sell, and not just because British up-and-comer Joe Cole, the film’s striking leading man, is a less prominent name. Nguyen’s previous film was a precious but arresting reverie, and the same dreamy spirit doesn’t sit quite as comfortably in a world of American corporate invasion and arranged Islamic marriages; there’s too much salient environmental detail at play here for the film to get away with quite such intimate tunnel vision.
There’s a key discrepancy in the film’s fundamental scene-setting: Disaffected security operative Gordon (Cole) is situated in suburban Detroit, while the location of young Ayusha (Lina El Arabi) is given only as “North…