Hysterical Blindness
Promotional poster
Based onHysterical Blindness
by Laura Cahill
Written byLaura Cahill
Directed byMira Nair
Music byLesley Barber
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers
ProducerLydia Dean Pilcher
CinematographyDeclan Quinn
EditorKristina Boden
Running time96 minutes
Production companyBlum Israel Productions
DistributorHBO Films
Original networkHBO
Original release
  • January 16, 2002 (2002-01-16) (Sundance)
  • August 21, 2002 (2002-08-21) (HBO)

Hysterical Blindness is a 2002 American television drama film directed by Mira Nair and written by Laura Cahill, based on her stage play of the same name. It stars Gena Rowlands, Uma Thurman, Juliette Lewis and Ben Gazzara. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 16, 2002, and aired on HBO on August 21, 2002. In 2003, Uma Thurman won a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of Debby Miller. Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands also won Best Supporting Actor/Actress awards for their performances as Virginia Miller and Nick Piccolo at the 2003 Emmy Awards. The opening titles by Trollbäck + Company won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Design in 2003.

Thurman plays an excitable New Jersey woman in the 1980s searching for romance. The San Francisco Chronicle review wrote, "Thurman so commits herself to the role, eyes blazing and body akimbo, that you start to believe that such a creature could exist — an exquisite looking woman so spastic and needy that she repulses regular Joes. Thurman has bent the role to her will".[1]


In 1987 in Bayonne, New Jersey, Debby Miller has been diagnosed with the condition hysterical blindness in which there are times when her sight fades in and out. The doctor tells her to try to have fun with her friends. She and her best friend Beth go to their favorite pub, Ollie's, and try to find a man and have a drink. Beth flirts with the bartender, and Debby grows angry with her and goes outside where she meets Rick. He wants little to do with her, but she convinces him to escort her to her car. As a 'thank you,' she offers to buy him a drink and tells him that she will be at the same bar tomorrow.

The next day, they see each other at Ollies's, and she asks him to go somewhere else; eventually they are at his house. It is clear that Rick has little interest in Debby, so to move things along, she tells him that she 'gives a great blow job.' Afterward, she thinks she has found love, but Rick is only looking for a one-night stand. Debby goes home.

Her mother Virginia has been dating an older man, Nick, who wants her to move with him to Florida. However, Nick dies from a heart attack. Virginia realizes that until she met Nick, she lived her life, waiting for things to happen to her. In the end, Debby, Beth and Virginia struggle to find stability in their New Jersey town and agree that all they need is each other.



  1. ^ "A repulsive beauty in ’80s Jersey, Thurman’s histrionics fit "Hysterical Blindness" well." San Francisco Chronicle. 23 August 2002. Retrieved 13 February 2006.