Take My Eyes (15)
Time Out saysAlthough the subject of domestic abuse hardly seems enticing, former actress Bollaín’s second feature, which swept the board at Spain’s Goya Awards this year, proves so committed and accomplished that any initial misgivings are soon forgotten. We first find Pilar (Laia Marull) sheltering in her sister’s house to evade her violent husband Antonio (Luis Tosar), but when he agrees to attend group therapy, the promise of change encourages her back. Despite everything, she still loves him, and the great tenderness between them at times means that all hope is not lost. Even so, it’s worrying that her increasing independence, boosted by training as a guide to the local art treasures of Toledo, seems only to exacerbate his lurking self-doubt.
Every sinew of Marull’s extraordinary performance tells you of the fear Pilar carries around each day. The way she looks, holds herself, talks even, is utterly believable and wins our deepest sympathy. It’s not all black and white though, since her reluctance to give up hope that her husband will improve plays its part in prolonging the pain, while there’s also an underlying sense that Tosar’s uncontrollable anger (shaped by evident insecurity within Spain’s competitive macho society) also makes him a victim by endangering his closest relationship. Bollaín’s direction eschews empty display, hews close to the excellent performances, and builds tension to a seemingly inevitable moment of explosion. The final confrontation apparently shocked even the actors with its ferocity, but it’s a suitably riveting conclusion to a film that both leaves a knot in your stomach and offers much scope for discussion. Highly recommended.
Fri Nov 19, 2004