Strong performances and great cinematography make How You Look At Me an interesting watch which is slightly let down by its anticlimactic ending.
Mia is that kind of friend that most of us have had. She is attractive in all the ways that only someone who is a bit broken can be. She is a free spirit, not tied down to the usual ‘boring’ anchors most healthy people have, she is charming and alluring and plays in a band. She is, however, rootless, needy and potentially unhinged.
Mia, played by Anna Astrom (Midsommar, Vikings) meets Ella, played by Ellie Turner (Mother No More, Black Cab) at a poetry night and they hit it off, quickly becoming close friends. Meanwhile, we cut to another time, where Mia also meets Charlie, played by George Blagden, and they also really hit it off. He shows Mia to his enormous, recently inherited country estate and they have an affair. For much of the film, these two timelines play out separately before inevitably coming together towards the end to reveal how they are connected and the true nature of Mia and Ella’s relationship is revealed.
The sound and cinematography are great; the lighting and background sound really effectively create a strong sense of time and space, which is essential with the narrative switching between different parts of the story. You always know when you are in the French countryside and when you are in the city in the UK. Both locations work well at showing us a different side to Mia, depending on her environment and who she is with; we get to see different sides to her personality and how she uses it to get what she wants.
The use of handheld camera effectively gives us a feeling of being a voyeur, as though we are somehow a witness to both relationships. We watch them flirt, we see them when they kiss, and we observe them arguing, at all times we are in a sense a part of these relationships, even if that makes us as an audience uncomfortable. It is an immersive viewing experience which feels at its most impactful as we slowly start to see the two timelines merge. We are gradually made to feel more and more uneasy as the tension mounts and some dramatic confrontation becomes inevitable.
The performances are all solid here with pretty much the whole thing being a three-hander. Astrom, in particular, gives a lot of depth to the role of Mia, a character who we need to be able to understand is simultaneously manipulative and vulnerable. She is probably given the most to do and handles it well with her performance anchoring the rest of the film.
Mostly the violins playing over moodily lit scenes with a disembodied conversation have the desired effect but on occasion steps into pretension. The drama is effective for the most part and the gradual build-up of tension worked for me. My only real complaint is the ending of the film which is just is not as dramatic as the tension and foreshadowing suggested it would be, a more dramatic denouement would have given a stronger payoff to the story and have made the overall experience much more satisfying.