Te Doy Mis Ojos (2003) from ICMS

May I ask your attention for a Spanish movie?

The film that I'm going to praise here is "Te Doy Mis Ojos" (2003; aka. Take my eyes) and is the tangible proof that you don't need a $100+ million budget to make a good movie, let alone a bad one. It was nominated for 9 Goyas, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars, and deservedly won 7.

The movie is a psychological (or even sociological) drama about domestic violence. Before anyone starts thinking "oh no, not one of these politically correct biased art films again that only pleases the target audiences it was made for", let me tell you that it carefully avoids this trap.

Before we get to that, let us reveal a bit of the story first.

One night in Toledo, Spain, Pilar (Laia Marull) and her young son Juan seek shelter from her husband Antonio (Luis Tosar) at her sister Ana's (Candela Peña) house. Although her sister lives in a small place with her Scottish fiancé whom she is about to marry, she takes Pilar and Juan in, of course. Ana also finds out that the physical abuse of her sister has been going on for years and advises her to divorce. Antonio however is doing his utmost, or so it seems, to win his wife and son back and Pilar isn't ready either to give up her marriage to the man she truly loves. And it looks like he is going to succeed, Pilar returns home and he doesn't abuse her physically anymore.

But is that enough to make a happy marriage?

Antonio is still working on his violent streaks, which are now aimed against objects and still scare the hell out of his wife. In the meantime faithful Pilar found a job as a museum guide, takes much pride in her work and develops her cultural knowledge as well. Jealous Antonio, on the other hand, remains stuck in his job as a surly salesman of electrical home equipment in his dad's business, and stays frozen in his usual attitudes. Furthermore he realizes that he is underachieving, which bothers him but not his wife. It is obvious that things will clash and come to a climax, given his past behavior. The result is not that physically violent for Pilar but very, very cruel and humiliating nevertheless.
The movie is in my opinion brilliantly made. The script explores every possible psychological angle of the subject with great subtlety. It would have been easy to fall into the trap of portraying Antonio as a brute who loves violence, we learn that in fact he doesn't, but he really sees no other way. At the end you certainly don't feel any sympathy for him, but you somehow feel a little bit sorry as well for this man with his limited social and educational skills who never learnt to express his feelings in a non-violent manner. The film also managed to avoid picturing Pilar as a battered, weak, emotional and passive woman. That too would have been far too easy a cliché. As I mentioned before, the movie works on a much more subtle psychological level that fills you with a certain amount of empathy for both characters and, until the last 10 minutes, it keeps you dangling on how the story will unwind.
The flawless and subtle script never leads to boredom, while the lighting, the camera work and the editing are top notch. Director Icíar Bollaín, also co-author of the script, clearly knew what she was doing, but what makes the movie work even better are the brilliant performances from the actors. Luis Tosar very accurately portrays a completely believable character, while Laia Marull is simply brilliant. Her facial expressions and manners are painstakingly realistic and keep you glued to the screen for the whole 103 minutes of the movie. You even wonder if she might have gone through a similar experience in real life. The combination of all aforementioned strong points makes watching this movie an eerily realistic experience that should be compulsory viewing for men with violent behavior. Sometimes a long good look in the mirror achieves more than hours of counseling.
According to Yahoo! Movies this movie is set for release on April 25, 2005 in the US. It did well at the box office in its home country but incomprehensibly didn't have much of an international release so far.
For those of you who might be tempted to give this film a go, I sincerely hope that I didn't spoil your viewing pleasure with this review. I really did my best not to give too much away, but reviewing the film without revealing anything proved impossible. For those of you who wonder if I am familiar with this kind of violence, let me assure you that I am not. It is just portrayed in such a way that it becomes so recognizable and real that you simply cannot stay untouched by this feature.

Or maybe I just got carried away, but then so would have been the jury who awarded the 7 Goyas.


  • It is already available on DVD in Spain (€ 9.99 in promotion at www.dvdgo.com) and as a rental in Belgium from www.dvdpost.be. It will also come to DVD as a retail version in Belgium an Holland at the end of January and in France in April (title: "Ne dis rien"). The Belgian rental version didn't have any extras. The Spanish version has a commentary track as well as some extras, including a bathing scene, and subtitles in English and French. Unfortunately, the Spanish hardly ever subtitle the extras, so I don't think I'll end up buying this version because my Spanish isn't good enough to understand them.


  • In one scene Laia Marull is nude in bed with her husband but only her breasts are visible. In another scene when her husband puts her on display on the balcony of their appartment she is bottomless wearing a bra only.
  • Luis Tosar can be seen naked also, front and back.

The Critics Vote ...

  • British consensus out of four stars: three stars. Telegraph 9/10, Independent 6/10, Guardian 8/10, Times 8/10, Express 8/10, BBC 3/5.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed about five million Euros in Spain, making it a moderate hit.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this movie rates as B+. Normally I'm not a huge fan of this genre, and I saw many psychological/talkative dramas that couldn't hold my attention, but this one did from beginning to ending. 492 IMDb users rated it 7.5, with women appreciating it just a tad more than men. So the film clearly appealed to both sexes, plus to all age groups alike as well.

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