Open Your Eyes (1997) / Mystery-Sci Fi
aka Abre Los Ojos
MPAA Rated: R for some strong sexuality, language and some violence
Running Time: 117 min.
Cast: Eduardo Noriega, Penelope Cruz, Cheto Lera, Fele Martinez, Najwa Nimri
Director: Alejandro Amenabar
Screenplay: Alejandro Amenabar, Mateo Gil
Review published October 16, 2001
Before being remade in the US as VANILLA SKY, there was this gem by Alejandro Amenabar, who would later direct the equally excellent flick in 2001, THE OTHERS. This is a hard film to review, as it's fairly easy to give too much away. Suffice it to say, there is quite a bit of oddness to the narrative, which makes sense (for the most part) as the events unfold. Astonishingly, this also predated the twisty event films like THE MATRIX and it's clones by two whole years.
The storyline shifts back and forth in time, with a handsome and wealthy man named Cesar who enjoys his share of the ladies through his success and good looks. He is the envy of his friends, the whole world on a string. Then one night at a party Cesar meets and falls for a woman named Sofia (Penelope Cruz), and the two have an instant chemistry. This doesn't sit well with Nuria, Cesar's last romantic interest, who gives Cesar a ride and promptly commits suicide by crashing the vehicle at a high speed. Cesar miraculously survives, but at a price, as his good looks are now gone behind a ton of reconstructive surgery that leaves his face hideously disfigured. Now feeling unloved, he tries to vie for Sofia's attention, hoping she will love him for what he is beyond the looks and money.
Saying anything about the plot should be criminal for a reviewer. About the only thing I can say without giving up too much is that ABRE LOS OJOS makes a sharp turn into the Twilight Zone after a bit, yet in the end it sews up the weirdness into a satisfying whole. Director Amenabar is a revelation, both as writer and director, and is perhaps the sole reason the film is as good as it is. Terrific atmosphere, good use of music (which Amenabar also did), a good cast and a hell of a story, yes it all adds up to a bleak yet great headtrip and a half. It's not always easy to watch, but now that your eyes are open, you won't be able to turn away from the screen.
©2000 Vince Leo