Be very careful what you wish for and be thankful for what you have.
That bit of ancient and wise advice cuts to the heart of "The Ticket," a slow-moving but haunting life lesson anchored by an exceptional performance from Dan Stevens of "Downton Abbey." It's that rare film that's likely to stick in the memory long after the lights have gone up.
Stevens is James, a happily married man with a young son. Having begun to lose his sight as a child, James has adjusted to a life of blindness. He has a job at a call center where his best buddy, Bob (Oliver Platt), is also blind. He regularly goes dancing with his wife, Sam (Malin Akerman), at the shabby dancehall where they first met.
But one morning he wakes up and can see.
The doctor won't say it's a miracle — apparently the pituitary tumor that caused his blindness has gotten smaller — but it kind of is. Yet once James gets a good look at the world he has created for himself as a blind man — small house, dull clothes, plain wife, dead-end job — he realizes he wants more.
He wants Jessica, that flirty, sexy co-worker (Kerry Bishe from "Halt and Catch Fire," playing against type). He wants that promotion to management — where he has a big idea about cranking up revenue — even if it means damaging his friendship with Bob. And he doesn't want to go back to that dancehall.
The question then becomes: Which James is the blind man?
The answer won't surprise anyone but Israeli director/co-writer Ido Fluk ("It's Never Too Late"), making his first English-language feature, turns the obvious alluringly artful — the entire opening sequence with dialogue and no visuals pulls us in to James' world — while Stevens makes both versions of James stirringly believable and sympathetic.
"The Ticket" isn't a faith-based film, though it does have a basic moral lesson that wouldn't be out of place in those movies. It just does it without the explicit religiosity. Believers, nonbelievers and the unsure alike can learn a lot from James.
"The Ticket" — 3 stars
No MPAA rating
Running time: 1:37