Mirror, mirror on the wall? Who’s the fairest of them all? Certainly not Maria (India Eisley), at least, that’s what she seems to think. Unappreciated and prodded by her plastic surgeon father, Dan (Jason Isaacs), whose trained and scrutinising eyes tell her: too pale, too thin and not enough make-up. Coming from a wealthy family and living in a beautiful (if stark and un-homely) house it’s hard to believe that Maria is not one of the most popular girls in her school, much to her parents dismay.
Maria is a recluse, she barely eats and only has two real friends at school. Despite the fact that lead actress India Eisley is strikingly model-beautiful, director Assaf Bernstein gives her a layer of paler foundation and a side fringe to drive home just how unfortunately tragic this poor young girl is. Whether it’s from peer rejection, lack of trying or lack of caring, it never seems too clear why Maria has ended up so deep within her own shell. A likely a mixture of her hovering mother Amy (Mira Sorvino) and Dan’s pursuit of the finest nips and tucks (even offering his own daughter cosmetic surgery for her 18th birthday) have sent Maria into a downward spiral, furthered even more so when she discovers a sonogram hidden inside her vanity mirror, depicting a set of twins in the womb.
Ultimately confused by this discovery alone, things get weirder later on when Maria goes to take a shower, and notices that her mirror reflection doesn’t move in time with her. Coming face to face with her doppelgänger, smartly named Airam, some alluring mirror trickery plays out here. One could even be convinced that Eisley actually has her own twin that stands in to mimic her movements, the mirror image always just slightly a millisecond out of sync with the real Maria, her bathroom turns into a dark and chilling netherworld of both fear and intrigue. Airam tells Maria that she can take her pain away and Maria eventually accepts. As Airam’s sharp-tongued, brave and sexually charged personality engulfs Maria it becomes increasingly difficult to reign her in.
Bernstein plays along the line of a teen-infused horror movie that could be a possession film or could be a psychological thriller, and ultimately leaves the story quite open ended for the audience to decipher for themselves. While incredibly light on the shudder-inducing scares, Jason Isaacs’ triumphant return to the role of Bad Dad is a particularly great one, deriving all the worst of beauty ideals and toxic masculinity into one completely terrible person.
This touch of exploration into feminine ideals and beauty is the films strongest suit, Isaac’s Dan seems to fit more comfortably into the role of villain than Airam does. In a lot of ways she fetches Maria confidence and gusto, essentially indulging in activities that that could be considered unladylike and freeing herself from her father’s shackles. But this doesn’t seem to be the film’s central takeaway, the ultimate message seems either lost along the way or muddled in with multiple avenues.
The desire for perfection and popularity is rife in Asaaf Bernstein’s Look Away, which tries to merge teen movie topics with a thriller lens. It might not be the savviest horror ever made due to its juvenile messaging, but its clean and cold aesthetics and villainous characters just about manage to pull it through.
Dir: Assaf Bernstein
Scr: Assaf Bernstein
Cast: India Eisley, Jason Isaacs, Mira Sorvino, Penelope Mitchell, John C. Macdonald, Harrison Gilbertson, Kristen Harris
Prd: Michal Bernstein, Phyllis Laing, Chilik Michaeli, Avraham Pirchi, Nir Zohar
DOP: Pedro Luque
Music: Mario Grigorov
Run time: 103 minutes
Look Away is released on DVD on April 15th