Richard Turner in Dealt (Sundance Selects)

Meet Richard Turner, internationally renowned card technician and illusionist extraordinaire. He’s considered by his peers as one of the most talented and respected card handlers in the field. What’s more, he’s blind, but don’t tell him that. In Luke Korem’s sincere and warm-hearted documentary, Turner’s story is one filled with tragedy, bravery, tenacity, and passion. It’s less about the master card trickster (and his tricks) as it is about a relentless boy-at-heart yearning to engage and live for the here and now.

For Turner, his biggest personal demon stems from his unwillingness to accept the setbacks of his blindness, his “handicap”—a word he vehemently detests and which never fails to elicit an angry snarl. As a character study, the film deals primarily with Turner’s self-denial. He’s simply an extremely prideful man, an embodiment of the truism about refusing to let one’s circumstances hold one back. For him, nothing is more repulsive to him than being labeled as the greatest “blind” card technician. No, he wants to be the greatest card technician period. As the film progresses, various setbacks, life changes, and personal revelations help Turner reconcile with his blindness.

However, as potent as the film’s themes may be, it’s ultimately a story that rings many familiar bells. Those in search of weirder and gaudier topics may be left hungry. At the same time, part of its charm is in that delicate simplicity. Through the little moments, the greatest revelations are made—Turner slowly realizing and then acknowledging his limitations is gut wrenching.

But stories such as Turner’s are timeless for a reason. One can’t help but admire Turner’s monk-like level of dedication to life and happiness. The man practices his craft 16 hours a day, seven days a week, while he eats, while he sleeps, even while he makes love. When he’s not wowing audiences with his illusory card tricks, he’s hiking, working out, or practicing karate. The film leaves us with an endearing portrait of a brave and persevering father and husband trying to make the most of the hand he was dealt.

Directed by Luke Korem
Written by Bradley Jackson and Korem
Released by Sundance Selects
USA. 86 min. Not rated