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Take My Eyes
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by Dr Nick

"Can't we all just get along?"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2004: Take my eyes is a devastatingly realistic account of domestic abuse and the difficulties in battling such a complex issue. With great performances all around and with some truly shocking scenes, this is a film that will stay in your memory for a long time.

Films about domestic violence are never fun to watch, and if they’re badly made they risk trivialising a serious and very common problem. Luckily, Take my eyes is good, very good. It deals confidently with this very complex issue and rather than just show us the abuse, tries to make us understand the reasons behind the violence.

Pilar is a young Spanish housewife with a young son. The film starts with Pilar leaving her home and husband and taking their son with her. They go to stay with Pilar’s sister, where she tries to come to terms with her decision. Her husband, Antonio, soon manages to track them down and with desperate promises of change, he begs her to come home. This is where the film gets interesting. Instead of following the simple route of returning home and facing repeated or even worse abuse, Pilar decides to stay with her sister. Antonio realises the seriousness of the situation and actually leaves her alone. He even joins a therapy group for men who beat their wives. And suddenly we start to feel for Antonio. Most of the men in the sessions are completely oblivious to the fact that their wives might want more from life than just slaving behind a stove all day and making babies at night, but Antonio seems different. He learns to deal with his temper, and as he starts declaring his love to Pilar they gradually fall in love again. Of course this raises many questions. Does it matter that he’s willing to change? Does a man who has mistreated his wife so much ever deserve a second chance? However you might feel about this, Pilar decides to give him a second chance and she returns home.

Unfortunately, Antonio doesn’t realise that getting her to come home is just half the battle won, and all the affection he has shown Pilar recently, soon subsides into another loveless situation. Also, now when she has left him once, Antonio becomes paranoid that it might happen again and with Pilar getting a job of her own, a new ugly side of Antonio’s personality starts to show. It seems like he’s jealous of the fact that she’s actually enjoying her job, while he is stuck in the same dead-end job he has always had. When Pilar was a shy and quiet housewife, she was not likely to meet someone else, but with her newfound confidence, he starts to believe that she’s only working in order to meet other men. He keeps going to see the therapist, but it is one thing to control your anger, another thing to control a jealous and paranoid mind.

Ultimately, it’s about gender roles and how hard it can be to break free from the preconceived notions of how a husband-wife relationship should work. Antonio feels threatened by Pilar’s free spirit and fears a situation where she might become the main breadwinner of the family. Of course his old-fashioned ideals are no excuse for his aggressive behaviour, something which soon starts to show up again. And just like that, he’s back to square one and the only one who has changed at all is Pilar.

Although quite predictable, it is a powerful film and one that is not very pleasant to watch. We all know what’s going to happen in the end. You can’t make a film about domestic abuse, make the abusive partner change, become an angel with a happily ever ending and so on. It just doesn’t work like that.

It’s not a pleasant film to watch, but it deals brilliantly with a very complex issue. The acting is brilliant and shockingly realistic at times. By all means, go and see this. Just don’t expect to have a good time.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8582&reviewer=345
originally posted: 08/20/04 06:00:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/06/05 mehmet bengü retired 5 stars
3/18/04 S Norden Powerful, gripping, great. 5 stars
2/28/04 Carl Ferguson unbelievable film. simply great and real. 5 stars
1/30/04 Adele Forman awesome, incredible 5 stars
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  17-Mar-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 07-Nov-2006



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