Take My Eyes, 2003

A harried woman seemingly on the verge of an emotional breakdown wakes her son, hurriedly packs their belongings and steals away in the middle of the night, arriving at the door of her sister Ana (Candela Peña) still unwittingly dressed in her house slippers. Pilar (Laia Marull) has finally decided to leave her abusive husband Antonio (Luis Tosar), a welcomed news that Ana is all too eager to accommodate by offering a place to stay, returning to the apartment in her place to retrieve forgotten items, and making a personal request to colleagues for her sister’s job placement in the museum. However, Pilar’s road towards independence is a difficult and uncertain one, complicated by her own lingering, passionate affection for her doting, well-intentioned husband, her son’s repeated requests to see his father, her tradition-minded mother’s (Rosa María Sardà) incessant reminders on the sanctity of marriage (and tacit “grin and bear it” apologia that the abuse is somehow a normal part of married life), and Antonio’s sincere attempts to salvage his marriage by attending anger management counseling. Unable to completely sever her emotional bond with her husband, she offers him yet another chance and moves back home in the hopeful illusion that his commitment to therapy can quell – and ultimately silence – his violent impulses. Take My Eyes is an elegant and incisive social realist portrait of domestic violence and, in particular, its manifestation within an indigenous social culture of accepted masculine aggression (machismo). Icíar Bollaín’s understated realization results in a taut, voluptuous, and intimate exposition on the nature and psychology of spousal abuse that is neither caricatured to the point of grotesque absurdity (the film concentrates more on the subtle evidences of long-term emotional abuse and implicit behavioral symptoms rather than present familiar narrative conventions of spousal battery under drunken rages) nor dimensionally simplistic in its portrayal of “good” and “evil” actions (and character personalities) to capture the complexity of the issue.

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