Take My Eyes (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner19/11/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 115 mins

Award-winning Spanish drama with a strong, complex script and terrific performances from its two leads – this is one of the year’s best foreign films.

Take My Eyes arrives on our screens having been literally showered with awards in Spain – it won Goyas (Spanish Oscars) for film, director, actor, actress, supporting actress and screenplay. It also deservedly received a rapturous reception at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival and is certain to pick up more plaudits once it opens nationwide.

Woman Flees Domestic Violence

Laia Marull plays Pilar, a married woman so terrified of her husband Antonio (Luis Tosar) that she escapes, taking their young son (Nicolas Fernandez Luna) and going to stay with her sister, Ana (Candela Pena). However, Antonio wants her back and agrees to attend anger management classes, desperate to change his behaviour.

Ana remains sceptical, but Pilar’s mother (Rosa Maria Sarda) encourages her to try and work things out. Meanwhile, Pilar’s taste of freedom enables her to discover an aptitude for an entirely new career, something that doesn't sit well with Antonio.

The Spanish title of the film (Te Doy Mis Ojos) literally translates as ‘I give you my eyes’ and refers to the romantic (and yet uncomfortable) wordplay between Antonio and Pilar. As their slightly obsessive dialogue indicates, the characters are strongly tied to each other and we’re torn between wanting them to work things out and wanting Pilar to be safe. As such, the film maintains a constant level of suspense that is extremely effective.

The performances from the two leads are excellent. Luis Tosar brings out the humanity in his character and ensures that he’s not just a typical Evil Husband-type (cf Evil Trevor in EastEnders). Three scenes in particular are incredibly powerful: firstly, when you see him with his family and realise why he is the way he is; secondly when he catches himself getting angry and is as horrified as Pilar; and thirdly, when he’s trying to express his frustration to his therapist. He also has intensely expressive eyes (not to mention a slight resemblance to James Nesbitt).

Culturally Relevant And Thoroughly Compelling

Laia Marull is equally good and really makes you understand why she still loves Antonio; her delight at her “secret dates” with her husband is both comical and heart-breaking. There’s also strong support from Candela Pena (whose upcoming marriage to a Scotsman provides much of the film’s humour) and Rosa Maria Sarda, whose reasons for trying to push Pilar into returning to Antonio may not be entirely selfless.

The script is superbly written and the trajectory of each character is never less than thoroughly believable. Bollain handles the material exceptionally well, particularly the inevitable violent scene, which is both shocking and terrifying, but not quite what you’re expecting. There’s also a surprising amount of humour in the film, particularly in the scenes with Pilar’s friends and the group therapy scenes.

In short, Take My Eyes is both culturally relevant (particularly in Spain, where most men would rather die than attend group therapy) and a thoroughly compelling film that deserves to be seen. With stunning performances and a strong, multi-layered script, this is unquestionably one of the best foreign films of the year. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 22/10/2017 14:36

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