By Devanshi Khetarpal, Contributing Writer
Revolving around the life and disability of the blind magician, Richard Turner, “Dealt” is an astonishing documentary about the magic we find within and around us. Directed by Luke Korem, the documentary explores how Turner’s unchanging relationship with his deck of cards and magic tricks exists parallel to his changing relationship with his blindness as well as the people around him. There is more to the film than just a portrayal of Turner’s genius — it pushes the audience to speculate the denial, vulnerability and weakness of Turner.
The documentary opens with one of Turner’s shows, as the audience sits spellbound from their revelation that Turner is blind. His vision began to deteriorate in his childhood; in Turner’s words, he began to see “what was not real.” Turner chose to live in denial of his blindness for some time, and carried on fighting, doing magic tricks and even refusing to accept help at times. “Dealt” portrays how people around him were affected by his blindness as well as Turner’s infatuation with his deck of cards.
The documentary establishes a contrast between how Turner and his blind sister view their disability. His wife and sister help him acknowledge his weakness and believe that magic and genius lies in one’s ability to accept one’s weaknesses. At the same time, Turner’s obsession with his deck of cards and card tricks is not seemingly unnatural. In fact, there is something rather intuitive about it. Turner seems to have a natural understanding of cards, almost as though they live through him and with him. The documentary often focuses on his hands gliding across the deck of cards, seamlessly and knowingly, as if they were inseparable.
However, the structure of “Dealt” is not presented in as groundbreaking or as fascinating a way as one would expect for such a story. The interviews with Turner, his colleagues and family members are predictable and usual. The documentary ends in a rather forced fashion, with seemingly motivational but cliched quotes about believing in oneself and one’s uniqueness, and above all, overcoming challenges. While these are certainly valid, the form and technique of the documentary aren’t pushed far enough, which dilutes the effect and beauty of its subject and the mesmerizing story itself.
Despite these flaws, “Dealt” is a captivating revelation of sorts. It is fresh, surreal and tender in its own way. The documentary has it’s little moments of laughter and tears, moments that garner applause and awe from the audience. The film may seem to be heavy-handedly imparting a lesson, but its overall beauty is enough to excuse that.
“Dealt” opens in New York theaters and on VOD on Friday, Oct. 20.