If L is for the way you look at me, then in Look Away, O is for the obvious disdain you feel for me. The surprisingly engrossing film starring Mira Sorvino, The OA’s Jason Isaac’s and India Eisley from the equally twisty Every Breath You Take, takes the familiar mouse becomes a tiger trope and layers enough family drama courtesy of effective turns from Isaacs and Sorvino and a dash of supernatural mirror play to whip up something both satisfying, empathetic, and, wildly creepy.
2018’s Look Away presents as your basic Carrie story without the telekinesis. Poor, sweet Maria is a shy teenager whose parents vacillate between coddling and ridiculing. Her best friend is more a frenemy than anything, which is not what the sweet girl needs. She is relentlessly bullied at school and finds little comfort at home. Her mother is out of touch but trying when she isn’t lost in her own problems and being heavily medicated. Her father is a gaslighting plastic surgeon who only seems to care about his idea of perfection. If you fail to meet those expectations, he’s ready with toxic advice and a scalpel.
The beginning sequence sets up that someone had twins. After what appears to be a stretch of bad days, Maria finds a sonogram picture of twins and begins seeing a mirror image of herself. This girl is everything she isn’t and promises to take all her pain away if she just changes places with her. When Maria agrees, she unleashes a vengeful Lolita hellbent on death and destruction. Maria’s mirror image Airam begins racking up bodies and taking matters into her own hands whether Maria likes it or not. Here’s everything you need to know about the mindbending ending of Look Away.
Does Airam exist?
Airam is a manipulator, but she isn’t a liar. Before Maria gives control to Airam, she reminds Maria of all the things Lily has done to her over the years. Those are probably real memories that Maria has suppressed or ignored. Maria is profoundly insecure so having a friend who made half an attempt to be kind was good enough. However, Lily left her on the ice after telling Maria Sean was hers, so she does have a cruel streak. Their relationship is toxic and has been from the beginning. Maria knows it but would rather ignore the red flags than have no friends at all.
The most straightforward reading of the movie is no, Airam never existed beyond the womb. Airam or Maria, spelled backward, is the mirror image of Maria both in the reflective surface but also in behavior. While Maria is timid and prone to being bullied, Airam is aggressive and violent. In all of the scenes where Maria and Airam communicate through the glass, it is Maria talking to a version of herself that she wishes existed. This hyper animalistic version of herself doesn’t take abuse from anyone and takes what she wants when she wants it. It is wish-fulfillment for a depressed girl who really only wanted people to see her. Maria only wants people to acknowledge her worth. It begins with her parents but trickles down to her few friends and the boy who bullies her.
Maria did find a sonogram picture of twins, so coupled with Amy’s dreams, we can assume she was pregnant with twins at one time. From one of Maria’s mother’s dreams, one of the children had an abnormality that was discovered shortly after being born. We never see the baby only hear Maria’s father say the other daughter is deformed. Since he thinks Maria is anything less than gorgeous, I have serious doubts about his decision-making, though.
The dream heavily implies the deformed twin was left to die. I’m assuming the snow scene was symbolic of “leaving the child out in the cold” as opposed to literally leaving the infant in the snow. When Maria found the picture of the twins in utero, she found a way to dissociate from the trauma of her life and created Airam. Through Airam, she was able to do all the things she wished she could do as Maria.
Both Maria and Airam exist in Maria’s mind and likely for Amy as well, who was also abused and troubled. Neither woman had the courage to leave their toxic relationships, and both were belittled and abused by Maria’s father, Dan. The ending makes the viewer question what was real.
The ending of Look Away
After Airam goes on a little killing spree, including Sean, In The Tall Grass’s Harrison Gilbertson, Maria refuses to talk to Airam through the glass anymore. Maria chose to hide deep inside herself at that moment rather than face what she did as Airam. Maria’s transformation into Airam is complete. Metaphorically, Maria’s loss of innocence meant she was no longer the timid little girl. Instead, she had fully embraced maturity through Airam.
At the end of Look Away, Amy holds first one daughter on the left and then one daughter on the right. Finally, after several views of the two girls independent of one another, Amy holds both girls simultaneously. Likely the two women are now sharing a delusion. Amy feels such guilt and grief from the loss of her other daughter, and Airam feels guilt for killing a bunch of people and the loss of Maria. Each woman wants there to be a twin to absolve them of their pain. Both women have been abused by Dan and are in tremendous pain. The presence of a twin could be a new beginning for both of them. In reality, Amy has only one daughter whose mind has fractured into two pieces, and she has to comfort them at different times. Amy is also unstable, so she chooses to believe both girls exist.
Look Away is a well done psychological thriller that showcases the talents of the core three actors and dives deep into the psyche of the mistreated and bullied. In the end, Look Away is not about a ghost twin or a supernatural demon, but a broken family and a mentally ill little girl. Maria’s demons were internal and weren’t conjured by anything other than mistreatment. It is available on Amazon Prime for free right now.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.