Early on in Assaf Bernstein’s psychological horror feature Look Away, a character drily remarks: “Nice is a boy you don’t want to go out with”. A droll throwaway remark. Particularly when we realise how deep some have delved into the realms of aggressive male internet communities. Fellows who claim that they are “nice” while secretly harbouring vindictive, possibly violent thoughts upon those who dismiss their romantic advances. The fact that the line is between two teenage girls, one of whom will become a vindictive harbinger of violence despite – maybe even because of – her inadequacies, hints at a transgressive nature that Look Away flirts with, but never truly embraces. This becomes quite apparent in some of the film’s sequences which suggests Oedipal elements framed within coded dialogue involving the term “daddy”. It’s a horror film which takes a particularly intriguing step towards areas of ‘that’s not right’.
Look Away instead settles for a rather drab tale of two sisters. It’s a film which not only fails to excite with its lethargic pacing and misty narrative, but one which has unfortunately been released around a similar time as Jordan Peel’s muscular, sophomore effort Us. A doppelganger feature which bowls on through with its outrageous prospect despite its flaws. With Look Away we’re invited to a somewhat chilly affair which feels inspired by Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) and Sisters (1972), along with Black Swan (2010) but lacks any of the devil-may-care boldness which makes those films what they are.
It would be easy to simply claim that those examples have more money behind them and therefore can do more with their material. However, Look Away holds a frustrating feeling that it’s not entirely sure how it wants to develop until its climax. Bernstein, director of the acclaimed feature The Debt (the 2007 film remade in 2010), tries to find the right vibe with its frosty angular visuals and more than competent cast.
But some of its neatly put together mirror-play antics drag on for longer than they need to, despite the film rushing to inform us just how crazy the lead character is going to be. Look Away’s India Eisley is already in Jack Nicolson The Shining mode before the second scene. It’s a strong performance, with Eisley handling the dual nature of her roles well, but she’s up against a screenplay that mills around its plot for far too long, before unloading upon her a revelation that it suddenly doesn’t seem interested in, picking up a character who possibly should have been consequential earlier on.
For what it’s worth, we are able to say hello to Jason Isaccs, who doesn’t disappoint in a role which feels far away from some of his more well-known jaunts but is still an effective screen presence. While most of Look Away does little to excite, at least it does so in a functional package with some watchable performances. It’s claim to be worth adding to a digital bookshelf however is a rather meek one.