I knew a woman who stayed for years with a man who abused her. He couldn't help himself. Neither could she. I think she was addicted to the excitement. She was the center of his world, the focus of his obsessions, the star of his disease. Some of the reviews of Iciar Bollain's "Take My Eyes" can't understand why Pilar returns to Antonio after his violent explosions. That's the point of the movie: Logic becomes irrelevant when she's caught in the drama. Just as he goes to therapy groups to learn how to guard against his anger, she flees to her sister to hear what a bastard Antonio is. Then some dread tidal force draws them together again.
The movie is not neutral. Pilar (Laia Marull) has a problem, but Antonio (Luis Tosar) has a much graver one. He is a sick man, whose insecurity and self-hatred boils up into violent outbursts against his wife. Even kicking a soccer ball around with his son, he finds himself kicking it too hard, thinking about his wife and taking it out on the kid. It is clear that Pilar should leave him and never return.
What makes the movie fascinating is that it doesn't settle for a soap opera resolution to this story, with Pilar as the victim, Antonio as the villain, and evil vanquished. It digs deeper and more painfully. The film opens with Pilar desperately waking her young son, grabbing a few clothes, and fleeing in the night to the home of her sister Ana (Candela Pena). In a sane world, this would be the end of the story, with Pilar getting a protection order and Antonio forever out of the picture.
But he pleads to return. He promises to change. He goes into counseling and therapy. He talks sweet. Her deep feelings for the man begin to stir. We saw this process in "What's Love Got to Do with It" (1993), with Tina Turner finally breaking free from Ike. In "Take My Eyes," which is about middle-class people in Toledo, Spain, the story is less sensational but trickier, because Antonio is a complex man. As we follow his attempts to reform, as we see that he's really serious about controlling his anger, we begin to feel sympathy for him. We even pity him a little as we see how, step by step, his defenses fall, his lessons are forgotten, and rage once again controls him.