The movie “Look Away” has strong ideas, but loses sight of its identity
Written and directed by Assaf Bernstein (Fauda, The Debt). Look Away follows a timid social outcast, Maria (India Eisley, Underworld Awakening), who is constantly degraded by her peers at school. Her own father regularly chastises her social habits and appearance. That with no thought as to how it could negatively affect her.
Maria gets little support from her chronically depressed mother. Amy (Mira Sorvino, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion). Or her childhood best friend, who seems to see Maria as more of a burden than a bestie.
During an emotional high point of teenage drama. Maria discovers that her mirror image is an independent, sentient being who calls herself Airam. Airam convinces Maria that if they switch places, Airam can solve all of her problems.
Of course, it’s never that simple.
Airam takes the lead on Maria’s life, seducing, hurting, and killing as she pleases. She’s driven purely by her base desires and she’s in no rush to give up control.
Right from the beginning of the film, Maria is regularly bullied by a group of rowdy teenage boys. Who are determined to publicly embarrass her at every turn. But, admittedly, there’s something about the casting of a conventionally beautiful actress in the role of Maria. That makes the whole thing fall a bit flat.
We feel true, relatable sympathy for Maria when she faces passive-aggressive criticism from her own parents. Her father, Dan (Jason Isaacs, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). He needles at her confidence as her mother tries too hard to stay positive. Both are harmful in their own way, and both parents are earnestly unaware of how their efforts are more harmful than helpful.
All this is to say that, yes, Maria is in a crummy situation. But, she gives up her power to grow stronger by handing the reins over to a sinister wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Maria tries to hide from her pain, much in the way that. Amy completely shuts down in the depths of her depression and willfully ignores her husband’s infidelity. They both choose to “look away” from the things that hurt them. But this doesn’t stop the pain from being there.
At its roots, this is actually a pretty interesting concept to explore. And perhaps because the stakes for Maria weren’t particularly high to begin with. This adds to the tragedy of the inevitably violent outcome.
At different points through the film, the role of the villain is filled more by Maria’s father than Airam. Dan is not a violent man, but his passive, judgmental, dismissive nature does lasting harm. Airam crashes like a wave, leaving destruction in her path. Dan is the rising flood that causes long-term damage, drowning those who cannot to move to higher ground.
That element of the film is one of its strongest, yet it is not explored as much as it should be. It’s a planted idea that doesn’t get enough attention to fully bloom.
There’s untapped potential with the finale as well.
The somewhat ambiguous ending leans on symbolism and stylized camerawork to provide a conclusion. This is in no way a bad thing, but its execution is not particularly satisfying. Perhaps it just feels out of place, given the fairly conventional way that the rest of the film is shot.
If there were more dramatically stylized shots throughout the film. This final take would provide an excellent guided point of emphasis. But as an isolated effect, it’s more of a distraction.
Look Away is a decent teen horror with a sharp dramatic edge. However, these elements tend to clash with some of the film’s more mature ambitions. As a whole, it has some great ideas in the air, but fails to really stick the landing.
A strong cast, everyone involved with Look Away portray their characters amazingly. As most of the actors already hold a certain pedigree when it comes to the roles they play.
From Issacs’ perfect depiction of the permissive idealist father to Sorvino’s well done performance of a deeply troubled and depressed mother. There is no shortage of star quality in this film. Eisley’s portrayal of the modest and insensible Maria to the confident, as well as the rage-driven Airam. MacDonald’s realistic portrayal of the school bully, really take the plot further, making it much more believable.
That in mind, while Look Away is about one individual yearning to get out of a toxic situation. The theme goes far beyond, showing that when you are consumed by pain and anger it will most likely lead to your downfall. Bernstein set out to develop a strong good versus evil subplot to further deepen the films message, and it works well. As a director, he shows he is more than capable of producing a film with a theme that really challenges what a Psychological Thriller can accomplish if done right.
All in all, there are some truly great moments in Look Away. But there are also others that feel rushed or times where the violence overtake the plot. Worth checking out, CrypticRock gives this film 4 out 5 stars.
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Assaf Bernstein
Stars: India Eisley, Jason Isaacs, Mira Sorvino
Written By: Assaf Bernstein
In Theaters: Oct 12, 2018 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Nov 12, 2018
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Vertical Entertainment
CRITIC REVIEWS FOR LOOK AWAY:
“Look Away” mostly fails as a “killer teen” movie. The pace is too slow, and the mood too somber.
It might not be the savviest horror ever made due to its juvenile messaging, but its clean and cold aesthetics and villainous characters just about manage to pull it through.
This is an interesting film whose serious problems shouldn’t be allowed to eclipse the good work on display. Nevertheless, you may find it uncomfortable to watch, and not always in a good way.
The film leaves an unpleasant puritanical aftertaste. [Full review in Spanish]