One winter night, Pilar runs away from home. With her, she takes only a few belongings and her son, Juan. Antonio soon sets out to look for her. He says Pilar is his sunshine, and what's more, "She gave him her eyes"...
Pilar runs away in the middle of the night from her house, located in a peripheral and residential neighborhood of Toledo; She carries her eight-year-old son with her. She seeks refuge at her sister's house, an art restorer who leads an independent life with her Scottish partner, both of whom reside in the old and historical part of Toledo. Pilar is one more victim of gender violence, who tries to rebuild her life and begins to work as a cashier for tourist. Through her new job she begins to relate to other women. Antonio, her husband, undertakes his search and recovery, promises to change and seeks help from a psychologist. Pilar gives her husband another chance, with the opposition of her sister, who is unable to understand her attitude. Despite Antonio's efforts to follow the advice of therapy, his violent personality and insecurities end up publicly undressing and humiliating his wife on a balcony.Written by
He Moved Through Fair
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A standing ovation
At the rate of more than one a week we have on our headlines a case of a woman being killed by her husband, ex-husband, partner or just simply lover, and even, very occasionally vice-versa. The fact that most of these crimes are committed in a very defined area of Spain is something which suggests the sociologists should be working flat out in an attempt to inform the politicians why this is happening - not that our elected representatives are likely to do anything to remedy the situation. Already, this year alone, 66 Spanish women have been beaten and killed by their partners in life. The other day I read that a lady judge had quashed a case of wife-battering because 'it was only an isolated case without continuity', or words to that effect. A lady judge .........! Evidently our legal and social systems need a drastic overhaul. And that means trying to inject a goodly dosis of common sense in both systems.
The Icíar Bollaín-Santiago García de Leániz tandem, forming Iguana Films, has clearly established that human contact stories are their main motivation, as in 'Flores de Otro Mundo' (qv); and in 'Te Doy Mis Ojos' they do not simply follow the line, but improve on it explosively. Somewhat akin to better known films by the British directors Ken Loach and David Lynch, basically for the sociological aspects in themselves, but clearly hallmarked as inherently Spanish in content and realisation, as is the case with Fernando León de Aranoa's 'Los Lunes al Sol' (qv), to name but one recent example of a film with a real human and sociological content, 'Te Doy Mis Ojos' competes with the best of the genre.
With this new film, the 'Iguana' tandem fall back on Luis Tosar again, and present us with Laia Marull. This actress had not come to my attention previously, as she seems to have done things for film or TV mostly confined to her native Catalonia. A welcome presence is Rosa María Sardà who has often pleased me with her interpretations in several productions. (Why she has to make silly advertisements for TV is totally beyond me). To say that Laia Marull in this film is magnificent is somewhat understating the reality: her performance is so close to absolute perfection, pure real emotions, that even the muscles in her cheeks and neck portray her feelings, as you will rarely ever see in any actress anywhere, however many Oscars they may have stacked away in their wardrobes, exhibited in gilt-framed glass cabinets, or just simply shoved in a corner behind the salt-pot in the kitchen. Laia Marull carries out a 'tour de force' which leaves you open-mouthed in admiration: her reading of the part is superb, such that the spectator is just simply left spell-bound. I thought this kind of acting was only possible in the best Russian tradition, or, if you push me, in some better British productions.
And Luis Tosar is not far behind. Without overplaying his difficult role of a husband, who is, to say the least, a bit off his rocker, and has to mistreat his wife and at the same time maintain the explicit idea that he is just about as sane as you, I, or anybody else, and thus is capable of tenderness, might seem to be asking any actor to overstretch his possibilities. If Luis Tosar was good - very good - in 'Los Lunes al Sol', here in 'Te Doy Mis Ojos' he was even better. These two, then, worked to make this film, evidencing good chemistry, but especially with the film's director, Icíar Bollaín. The result is electrifying, passionate, growling to the most abysmal depths, but reaching great heights in building upon human emotions - real emotions and feelings, not the canned ready-made ephimeral substantiations served up as if for dinner in a four-star restaurant.
The film is architecturally built on a very serious, tragic and dramatic situation; however, there are those lighter moments which can even produce a few teary-eyed guffaws. This is another point where the film scores highly: the timing is absolutely brilliant. In the kids' birthday party there is a brief, grim scene, suddenly interrupted by the appearance of an aunt holding aloft the candled birthday cake with that typically silly smiling grin of any ordinary woman present at such festivities, but with such perfect synchronisation that the audience barely staggers out of the charged tense atmosphere and into the more frivolous, before being thrown back into the grimmer parts of the story-line which pervades the film.
Because it is the stark reality of thousands of married women in Spain that is the basis of the film: badly- treated, beaten and abused, barely five per cent ever get to a police-station or to a court of law. This is the message in this hard, direct film that delves deeply into real human situations which cannot - should not - be simply left in the statistics of bureaucratic ledgers, as happens these days.
'Te Doy Mis Ojos' is a beautiful, tragic, moving real-life story; if in itself it must rank among the best seven or eight Spanish films I have ever seen - and believe me I have seen many - there is something which towers above the film itself - Laia Marull has achieved something nearing the impossible; and Icíar Bollaín has aided and abetted her to produce a final result that can only drive you at the end to give this film a standing ovation.
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