Maria (India Eisley), a disconnected teenager’s life spirals into chaos when she switches places with her malevolent mirror image in Assaf Bernstein’s compelling Canadian psychological thriller, Look Away.
Look Away is an indie sleeper hit, delivering an inventive concept anchored by a powerhouse central performance from India Eisley and a dynamic supporting cast, notably Jason Isaacs and Mira Sorvino as her parents.
Look Away operates as a coming-of-age drama, a layered character piece, and a twisted thriller. While the thriller element is nothing new, with many conventional tropes catered for, the film is undoubtedly gripping as the ugly truth surrounding Maria’s family begins to gradually unravel. Bernstein doesn’t shy away from taking the film to some uncomfortably dark places using bold narrative choices.
India Eisley is captivating in the leading role, convincingly playing a troubled teenage girl and her increasingly sinister counterpart. As Maria, she displays vulnerability authentically as she is tormented by her peers and unsettled by her fractured home life. With Airam she projects a venomous demeanour as she masterfully manipulates a helpless Maria into avenging those who have caused her pain. Eisley’s performance is the film’s driving force, as she takes the audience on a twisted journey from beginning to end.
As Maria’s father Dan, Jason Isaacs plays the film’s most complex character. Cold and unapproachable, Dan is a plastic surgeon driven by the notion of perfection while harbouring some seedy secrets of his own. The father/daughter relationship supplies plenty of tension to a disturbing effect.
Mira Sorvino gives an understated performance as the Stepford style housewife. She’s trapped in notions of conformity while seemingly ignorant to her daughter’s needs while neglecting her own. The family dynamic plays out in an engaging fashion, representing people who appear to live the ideal life with the cracks slowly but surely materializing underneath the surface.
Look Away is a slow burn which does drag out towards the end as it loses its sense of direction entering a predictable territory. Prior to this Bernstein does a tremendous job in building character development within a plot that could have easily fallen flat if placed in the wrong hands. He delivers an effective story featuring characters that the audience are compelled by before introducing the film’s darker genre elements.
Bernstein isn’t afraid to push the envelope, depicting its themes in a scathing light that many teen orientated genre films would most likely avoid. There’s a profound focus on body image, teen sexuality, bullying and envy that elevates the film from being a forgettable, throwaway run-of-the-mill genre flick.
Look Away is an unflinching, provocative depiction of girlhood in a familiar genre context. Think Stephen King’s Carrie meets Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen (2003) crossed with Jekyll and Hyde. It’s a strong effort with a melancholic indie tone, beautiful snow-drenched cinematography, an excellent soundtrack and exceptional performances from its core cast.
Look Away is available to view on VOD from Monday the 15th of April.