Throughout writer-director Hadas Ben Aroya’s All Eyes Off Me, we’re privy to a level of intimacy not often seen. Much of said intimacy is in the form of sex, but exploitation this is not. For as much graphic sex as there is, Aroya’s exploration of intimacy in the form of human connection is just as integral to the overall experience. Just as powerful as the scenes that explore the fulfillment of aggressive sexual fantasies are the sequences when individuals connect on a human level and not just through animalistic urges.
The drama is structured around separate vignettes that are somewhat disparate in nature but are unified by themes of individuals – largely consisting of college-aged Israelis – searching for connection. The first segment follows Danny (Hadar Katz), a young woman at a raucous house party searching for Max (Leib Levin). Danny has recently discovered that she is pregnant, and Max is ostensibly the father. This segment is reminiscent of something from Gaspar Noë with its pumping music and intense discussions. However, the picture shifts quickly towards a more personal section, featuring Max and his new girlfriend Avishag (a brilliant Elisheva Weil) eagerly exploring each other through sex of a borderline violent nature.
There’s no need to be prurient when talking about the sex scenes in All Eyes Off Me. They are steamy, realistic, and quite effective in uncovering the hidden interiors beneath the surface of Avishag and Max. This film is an excellent example of how graphic sexuality in cinema can serve a distinct purpose in furthering character development without descending to the level of pure titillation. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with that either, provided it’s a safe environment for the participants.
“Danny has recently discovered that she is pregnant, and Max is ostensibly the father.”
Hadas Ben Aroya uses the sex in All Eyes Off Me to provide a poignant commentary on the nature of intimacy as a whole. As the title of the film alludes to, sex can be anonymous and meaningless. While the sex between Avishag and Max is anything but dull, it’s clear that something is missing. They’re enjoying the act, but it’s clear — at least to Avishag – that something is missing. They’re still working to establish a real connection. To get that message across largely without exposition is the work of a special filmmaker. She throws us for a loop in the last vignette, where Avishag does connect with someone (and it’s not who we would expect). It’s a connection that isn’t necessarily based on sex. These two actually see each other.
One can’t say enough about Elisheva Weil as Avishag. Very few actors would be willing to embrace such an emotionally (and physically) revealing role, but she nails it. If one contrasts her work in the intense love scenes in the second segment with the intensely nuanced performance in the final sequence, it’s easy to see a very bright future ahead for the young actor.
All Eyes Off Me was a pleasant surprise. One’s mileage may vary with the opening party sequence, but the rest of the film is spot on and gives me hope that the medium — at least outside the U.S. — may not shy away from sexuality after all. Maybe don’t watch this one on a shared account, though.
For screening information, visit the All Eyes Off Me page on Film Movement.
"…poignant commentary on the nature of intimacy..."