Maria (India Eisley) is a shy girl with a lot of problems. She has bullies at school, a crush on her best friend’s boyfriend, and very critical parents, including her plastic surgeon father Dan (Jason Isaacs). One day she discovers that her mirror image has a mind and will of its own. Maria agrees to let her mirror self take control of her life. But as Airam’s actions become more extreme, it becomes less clear who is really in control.
Look Away eschews typical genre tropes such as jump scares and overtly gory images in favour of a subtler, character-driven horror. It’s a familiar coming of age monster movie reminiscent of Ginger Snaps or Excission but has a bleak style entirely of its own. The film is also aided by a committed performance from India Eisley. Eisley is glacially fragile but capably sinister as she transforms. It’s fun to watch her attack her bleak world with newly formed teeth.
Unfortunately, many of the ancillary characters are quite thinly drawn. The bullies are typical mindless bullies, Maria’s parents are occasionally comical in how awful they are. Jason Isaacs has the conviction and authority to lend Dan’s actions a sinister plausibility, but even he becomes a cartoon villain when he offers his daughter corrective surgery for her 18th birthday.
The film is building to a twist reveal, but the scenes that forebode this often feel out of place. They are the only scenes that are not experienced from Maria’s (or Airam’s) point of view. They don’t necessarily help us to understand the mother or her actions. The film could have maintained a much more claustrophobic atmosphere by trapping us solely in Maria’s experience.
Look Away is a familiar narrative, but told with a confident style and admirable commitment to pace. There’s not much inner life to the world that Maria inhabits, but she herself as a character is something to behold and enjoy.