Movie Review: Take My Eyes/To Doy Mis Ojos

te-doy-mis-ojos2.jpg Director: Icíar Bollaín

Spanish release: 2003

U.S. release: 2006 w/ limited distribution

I was really afraid of watching this movie. Because of its very serious subject matter, i had not asked any of my friends to watch it with me, expecting replies of “No.” I was afraid of it. A mass of nerves, i rented it on Netflix and held onto it for over a 4 weeks before forcing myself to go through with it.

(Deep inhale and exhale)

Te Doy Mis Ojos is a drama focused on the struggles of two working class people of Toledo, Spain, but the setting could be easily changed with the story still essentially intact. Pilar fights against those voices that keep her tied to her husband, Antonio: her mother’s sense that all women must have a man, her own emotional pattern of accepting Antonio’s beatings and yelling, and society’s definition that women < men. Antonio struggles with a sense of his own worthlessness as a salesperson in a department store, and more importantly, as the less appreciated son in an emotionally callous family.

We witness how Antonio’s inability to understand and express his fear and pain are the cause for his possessiveness of Pilar, and how this leads to his attempts to maintain control of her through violence.te-doy-mis-ojos1.jpg

To a different degree, we also witness Pilar’s journey. While in the midst of preparing for her sister’s wedding, Pilar recollects how she met Antonio, how he proposed to her, and her own expectation of happiness. And we see her finding meaning and building relationships beyond the walls of her house as she learns to become a guide at an art museum.

This superbly acted film scares me not so much because of the violence shown on screen (it’s more dramatic than graphic), but because of how it’s characters are so believably interact with one another. I feel that Te Doy Mis Ojos so effectively involves its audience partly because it starts in the middle of the story, introducing the audience to an abuser who cannot be easily labeled as a monster and a survivor who is still unsure whether or not she loves the abuser. There were a few times when i myself wanted to hit Antonio as i became angry, wanting to make his aggressions stop, wanted to stop myself from feeling again like a child watching Father trying to destroy Mother.

Te Doy Mis Ojos gives the viewer a deeper understanding of how domestic violence goes beyond physical brutality to show how an abused person can live in perpetual fear of violence, how rape can and does happen without penetration, and how an abused person sometimes still hangs on to the abuser despite clear and repeated eruptions of the abuser’s devastating anger.

Pilar is played by Laia Marull. Antonio by Luis Tosar.

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