A duality of subject matter although linear in delievery.
Like much of the world, you are probably going a bit stir crazy being confined to your household 90% of the time and have probably perused the listings of Netflix to much dismay. I did exactly the same one evening and began watching a film with hesitation however soon realised I had stumbled upon a hidden gem.
'Look away', released in 2018, relays a visceral view of the psychology of an understandably melancholy teenager. The film follows Maria(India Eisley) as she struggles to make friends in an unforgiving environment whilst suffering from debilitating self worth and body image, an illness of hers which grows more present as the film progresses.
You can’t help but feel sorry for Maria as she has to put up with horrendous bullying by pretty much everyone around her. Hell, even her friends is a gigantic drain as she childishly battles with Maria over a boy interest, not to mention consistently speaking ill of her supposed 'best friend' behind her back. You’d think that a bullied girl would have a loving family to go home to, but she does not have that either. She remains utterly voiceless at home surrounded by an image obsessed father(Jason Isaacs) who daylights as a plastic surgeon and moonlights as a cheating waste of space and a hopeless mother(Mira Sorvino) who spends most of her days either erratic or dosed up on pills.
It’s clear to see why Maria turns to solace through her mirror in the bathroom, although it’s unclear to see whether the response she gets is the work of a sentient, other being claiming to be her deceased twin, the soul of her twin materialising to take revenge on everyone or a way of disassociating from her future homicidal tendencies and actions. Whilst it shows plenty of violent and disturbing imagery, it also has its fair share of full frontal nudity, making this a film to watch when the kids are in bed.
I personally believe the film is playing off the twin theory. After all, it is common knowledge that twins claim to share feelings and thoughts with each other through some undiscovered telepathy or spiritual link. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, the theories and articles behind this are definitely worth a read.
Her other self, Airam(I'm sure I do not have to explain the choice for this name) offers to switch sides with Maria so she can ‘help’. Initially, you are met with a more confident Maria/Airam who stands up to the bullies at school and at home, although it does not take long for her to descend into darkness, ultimately transforming into a manipulative, murdering sociopath. Calling her a psychopath would be untrue, as she does seem to display some emotion, albeit generally through reflections at this point.
Much like any film that focuses on mental illness, the delivery can often be disappointing or just plain offensive, although director Assaf Bernstein manages to separate his film from that cliche, instead offering a dark, depressing; though stylistically shot; film.
The choice of different shots and the mise en scéne decisions accentuate the film’s desired effect. The lighting in the film does a fantastic job of playing off of Maria’s crippling loneliness and depression and the white, snowy setting mixes well with the isolating feeling the film completely radiates. Despite some of the scenes being bright in colour and contrast, you can't help but feel this is a mirage and instead receive a dark, uncomfortable feeling.
The musical score for this film, composed by Mario Grigorov, aids to the uncomfortable aura that surrounds this film. There is a specific scene within this film where Maria goes to her father's workplace where he berates and points out her imperfections. The background music makes you feel about as uncomfortable as Maria looks. It is just tense from start to finish.
If you fancy an un-apologetically dark film, then Look Away may just be your next watch, despite how hidden it is in Netflix’s algorithm.