Mark Reviews Movies

Look Away


2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Assaf Bernstein

Cast: India Eisley, Jason Isaacs, Penelope Mitchell, Mira Sorvino, Harrison Gilbertson

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 1:43

Release Date: 10/12/18 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 11, 2018

What's happening to Maria (India Eisley), the protagonist of Look Away, is either psychological or supernatural. Writer/director Assaf Bernstein doesn't explain it for certain, which is probably the correct choice. Either option would seem rather silly with any amount of explanation.

Basically, Maria is either taking on the personality of a long-lost-and-forgotten twin or being possessed by the twin's spirit. Either option doesn't make any sense (There's another option that the movie's sudden stop of an ending might be suggesting, but it's all very vague).

Fortunately, that's not the point of this story. In terms of how that story plays out, the movie gives us both a thriller, in which a teenage girl exacts revenge against those who have wronged her (through the freedom of another personality or the spirit of an actual person), and a horror story, in which the same girl (either trapped in her own mind or within some other realm) has to watch as the other personality potentially destroys her life.

There's a tantalizing sense of duality to this premise that goes beyond the main character's dilemma. We're never quite sure if this is what Maria subconsciously wants or what is forced upon her by some foreign entity. It's a bit frightening, if patently ridiculous, either way, but what keeps the movie almost grounded enough is that it has genuine concern for Maria's assorted and rather commonplace issues.

She's angry at her judgmental and overbearing father Dan (Jason Isaacs), a plastic surgeon, whose planned birthday gift for his daughter is cosmetic surgery. She wishes her mother Amy (Mira Sorvino) would stand up for her more. She notices that her supposed best friend Lily (Penelope Mitchell) isn't quite as true as she thought, and she has a crush on Sean (Harrison Gilbertson), who's dating the easily jealous Lily. We can relate to these issues and admire the gloomy twisting of Maria's ordinarily troubled life, even as Bernstein's central gimmick constantly threatens to send the entire affair off the rails.

The setup is ambiguous enough that we're not laughing at it, but it's also, perhaps, too vague. Too much certainty likely would have ruined this material, but the extreme ambiguity becomes a significant issue, too. We want to sympathize with Maria, but no matter how one interprets what's happening to her, Look Away keeps us at a distance from the character.

Copyright 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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