Look Away: A voyeuristic, unflinching decent into teenage madness
Poor Maria (India Eisley) isn’t quite the Carrie White of her wealthy, every-town USA high school, but she inhabits the same circle of Hell, the one filled with girls who aren’t cute enough or self-confident enough or socially connected enough to make the teen A-team and date the top guys, go to the coolest parties and float through high-school life on a cloud of social acceptance and parental adoration.
It’s a landscape familiar to pretty much everyone who went to high school. Maria’s not ugly or chained to a mentally ill, psycho-religious mother; her family life is just garden-variety screwed up. Her insecure mom (Mira Sorvino) drinks a little too much and her arrogant dad (Jason Isaacs) is a plastic surgeon who makes his living nipping and tucking upper-middle-class housewives afraid that their husbands will leave them for a pop tart or a Russian gold-digger.
Her classmates are just as looks-obsessed; Maria has a pretty face and a nice body, but she’s still insecure. She’s at the top of the bottom of the high-school heap, above the special-needs students, the fat kids and the total geeks, until her reflection in the bathroom mirror—unsubtly named Airam—starts taking down the mean girls and dream boys. Look Away bundles a tough and thoroughly worthy message in a genre package, a tried-andtrue way of addressing ugly everyday truths.
Unfortunately, it’s not especially distinctive, and the fact that Maria is the survivor of a pair of twins, one of whom apparently died shortly after being born, doesn’t add any depth to the story, which renders its final shot—clearly meant to be a haunting takeaway—sadly ineffective.
Eisley gives a nice performance as Maria, and her Airam genuinely feels like a different character—someone just as frustrated as Maria but far more willing to let her fury show; the actress deserves the opportunity to test herself against more challenging material. But Look Away is destined to disappear into the morass of good but not great horror films with higher aspirations.