Take My Eyes

Take My Eyes

****1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

This gripping drama won seven Goya awards, including Best Film, and it is easy to see why.

Domestic abuse has been portrayed on film before but never with this much complexity. Usually, we are treated to a parade of brutality, bordering on stylised cartoon violence in some cases, as oafish men hit their women for not having tea on the table.

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Iciar Bollain's treatment is completely different. She keeps the rough stuff to a minimum, though the emotional abuse is continually evident, in a tale of two lovers caught up in their own personal tragedy.

Violence is implied as the film opens with a terrified Pilar (Laia Marull) hastily packing a suitcase and waking her son Juan (Nicolas Fernandez Luna) and running away to her sister Ana (Candela Pena) to escape her abusive husband Antonio (Luis Tosar). Initially, she doesn't tell the soon-to-be-married Ana about the violence at home, but her sister discovers hospital records and insists she stay away.

Staying away doesn't prove so easy, as Antonio begs, threatens and cajoles in an attempt to win her back. This is where the film deviates from more caricatured tales of domestic brutality. Antonio enrols on an anger management course and Pilar - though wary and having secured some voluntary work of her own at a gallery, giving her access to new friends and aspirations - decides to stand by her man in an attempt to rediscover the love they have lost.

Bollain tracks the progress of their attempted reconciliation and the wedge that it drives between Pilar and Ana. The cast is utterly compelling. From Marull's excellent portrayal of Pilar's fragile determination to Tosar, who is perfectly cast as Antonio. At once vulnerable, confused and yet still very scary, even when he's being nice, he brings home the anguish of a man married - perhaps irretrievably - to violence, but who is trying to escape from the cycle.

All this talk of violence may give the impression that Take My Eyes is downbeat when, in fact, it is not. There is much to be said for the bravery of the characters and a strong line of enjoyable comic relief, provided by Pilar's newly found girlfriends, that is cathartic and yet laced with hidden truths.

Forget what you know about black and white and embrace these shades of grey.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2004
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Domestic abuse and its aftermath, Spanish style.
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Director: Iciar Bollain

Writer: Iciar Bollain, Alicia Luna

Starring: Laia Marull, Luis Tosar, Candela Pena, Rosa Maria Sarda, Sergi Calleja, Kiti Manver, Elisabet Gelabert, Nicolas Fernandez Luna, Dave Mooney, Chus Gutierrez

Year: 2003

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain

Festivals:

EIFF 2004

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