Written and directed by Assaf Bernstein (Fauda, The Debt), Look Away follows a timid social outcast, Maria (India Eisley, Underworld Awakening), who is constantly degraded by her peers at school. Her own father regularly chastises her social habits and appearance with no thought as to how it could negatively affect her.
Maria gets little support from her chronically depressed mother, Amy (Mira Sorvino, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion), or her childhood best friend, who seems to see Maria as more of a burden than a bestie.
During an emotional high point of teenage drama, Maria discovers that her mirror image is an independent, sentient being who calls herself Airam. Airam convinces Maria that if they switch places, Airam can solve all of her problems.
Of course, it’s never that simple.
Airam takes the lead on Maria’s life, seducing, hurting, and killing as she pleases. She’s driven purely by her base desires and she’s in no rush to give up control.
Right from the beginning of the film, Maria is regularly bullied by a group of rowdy teenage boys who are determined to publicly embarrass her at every turn. But, admittedly, there’s something about the casting of a conventionally beautiful actress in the role of Maria that makes the whole thing fall a bit flat.
We feel true, relatable sympathy for Maria when she faces passive-aggressive criticism from her own parents. Her father, Dan (Jason Isaacs, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), needles at her confidence as her mother tries too hard to stay positive. Both are harmful in their own way, and both parents are earnestly unaware of how their efforts are more harmful than helpful.
All this is to say that, yes, Maria is in a crummy situation, but, she gives up her power to grow stronger by handing the reins over to a sinister wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Maria tries to hide from her pain, much in the way that Amy completely shuts down in the depths of her depression and willfully ignores her husband’s infidelity. They both choose to “look away” from the things that hurt them, but this doesn’t stop the pain from being there.
At its roots, this is actually a pretty interesting concept to explore. And perhaps because the stakes for Maria weren’t particularly high to begin with, this adds to the tragedy of the inevitably violent outcome.
At different points through the film, the role of the villain is filled more by Maria’s father than Airam. Dan is not a violent man, but his passive, judgmental, dismissive nature does lasting harm. Airam crashes like a wave, leaving destruction in her path. Dan is the rising flood that causes long-term damage, drowning those who cannot to move to higher ground.
That element of the film is one of its strongest, yet it is not explored as much as it should be. It’s a planted idea that doesn’t get enough attention to fully bloom.
There’s untapped potential with the finale as well. The somewhat ambiguous ending leans on symbolism and stylized camerawork to provide a conclusion. This is in no way a bad thing, but its execution is not particularly satisfying. Perhaps it just feels out of place, given the fairly conventional way that the rest of the film is shot.
If there were more dramatically stylized shots throughout the film, this final take would provide an excellent guided point of emphasis. But as an isolated effect, it’s more of a distraction.
Look Away is a decent teen horror with a sharp dramatic edge, however, these elements tend to clash with some of the film’s more mature ambitions. As a whole, it has some great ideas in the air, but fails to really stick the landing.
“Look Away” is now available On Demand.
For more memorable moments in horror cinema, check out our list of our Top 5 Chilling Moments With Iconic Villains