Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Take My Eyes

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

TAKE MY EYES

3/10

Te doy mis ojos aka You Have My Eyes : Spain 2003 : Iciar BOLLAIN

Domestic violence is, by any measure, a serious and important issue – so powerful, indeed, that it demands the most careful, sensitive and intelligent treatment if used as the subject-matter of a film. And this is precisely what writer-director Bollain does not provide with her grindingly formulaic Take My Eyes – a woefully by-the-numbers melodrama loaded with cheap, artificial gravitas. In the crucial central role of battered-wife Pilar, Laia Marull gives a lousy performance – a gratingly mannered caricature of meek self-effacement.

As her volatile husband Antonio, meanwhile, Luis Tosar copes as best as he can with a one-dimensional part – but even an actor of his great skills (he’s rightly regarded as pretty much the equal of Javier Bardem in their native Spain) can’t do much with such a thankless role. Antonio is a pigheaded, drink-swilling macho-man whose dialogue mostly consists of monotone, paranoid rants. He’s clearly incorrigible, despite attending some group-therapy sessions (which Bollain seems to conveniently forget about in the film’s latter stages). These sessions do, however, provide rare flashes of welcome interest in the form of comic relief – as do the shenanigans of Pilar’s relatives when her sister Ana (Candela Pena) gets married to a nice-guy Scotsman (Dave Mooney).

Like Tosar, Almodovar graduate Pena deserves much better: if she’d switched roles with Marull, Take My Eyes would undoubtedly have been much more bearable – but it seems likely that only the removal of Bollain from the project would have made it a success. As it is, Take My Eyes is a regrettably missed opportunity – not least because so few Spanish releases obtain distribution in the UK (especially compared with the endless stream of so-so French product that infests our arthouses). There’s one bright spot on the horizon, however in the form of Pablo Berger’s breezily unpretentious Torremolinos 73, which – although it doesn’t pretent to deal with any serious social problem – showcases Pena, and current Spanish cinema, to much more impressive effect.

7th November, 2004
[seen 24th September, 2003 : Kursaal, San Sebastian : press show : San Sebastian Film Festival]

this review written for Tribune magazine

click here for original review from the 2003 San Sebastian Film Festival

by Neil Young