The Eyes of My Mother Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Park Circus
Written and directed by Nicolas Pesce
2016, 76 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 24th March 2017
Diana Agostini as Mother
Kika Magalhaes as Francisca
Olivia Bond as Young Francisca
Will Brill as Charlie
Joey Curtis-Green as Antonio
Flora Diaz as Lucy
The Eyes of my Mother is an incredibly effective debut from director Nicolas Pesce and a horrific look at loneliness told through the narrow lens of a girl brought up in a world of relative isolation.
We meet Francesca as a young girl, played by Olivia Bond with the precision of an actor four times her age, being taught to dissect a cow’s eye by her Portuguese mother and surgeon (Diana Agostini). You would think that the film’s monochrome aesthetic would make such graphic moments easier to bear but somehow here we are, still being dared to not look away and the effect is a horrible but important one as, like Francesca, we too must get used to such visions of visceral butchery.
When stranger Charlie - played by Will Brill, who would give The Joker a run for his money in the maniacally creepy stakes - shows up at the family’s remote farmhouse, Francesca is forced to witness the brutal murder of her mother, setting off a chain of events that will forever shape her young mind as she grows into an adult, played by luminous newcomer Kika Magalhaes.
Later, when her father dies, she is forced into further loneliness and left to deal with life the only way she knows how. She longs for family, she longs to be with others but what lengths is she willing to go to and what has a life of relative isolation done to a girl who sees humans through the cold eyes of a surgeon?
What is most interesting and refreshing about Pesce’s often agonisingly slow-burning story is that it doesn’t need to delve too deep into Francesca’s past to make it work, instead choosing to give a snapshot of occurrences to create a believable mind capable of capturing and torturing her victims – no need for a big budget prequel here folks, take note Hollywood.
Making its way to the screen by way of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre via I Spit on Your Grave with a short stop at Bates Motel, the film is stunning to look at. This is attributed to the work of cinematographer Zach Kuperstein who manages to make almost every shot look like a beautifully macabre painting that Pesce is more than happy to let us linger on.
With a minimal cast giving the main character time to breathe, even with a short running time of 76 minutes this could easily work as a play and it's that attention to character that drives the film. Although Francesca has now become a serial killer, we somehow empathise with her situation, her mind, her need to love and be loved in return. The skill with which Magalhaes is able to draw us in while giving next to nothing away is a huge part of the film’s, dare I say, charm? She is quite literally mesmerising and devours the screen with a simplistic innocence that gives you chills and fills you with a want to know everything about her. This skill comes into the forefront during one awkward encounter with a girl she picks up from a bar.
It’s at this point where we hope she’s going to turn it around and that her past trauma is just that, but our empathy is turned on its head during a likely harrowing off-screen attack- we only see the aftermath as Francesca scrubs blood from the floor - and let’s face it, we are not here to watch someone get back on their feet are we?
The film is not without its darker than dark sense of humour as at one stage we see our killer dispose of various limbs on a bonfire.
When the film enters its final phase and Francesca has ‘created’ a family of her own, at an innocent woman’s expense, we get a glimpse of the character’s understanding that what she has done is wrong as she fears that said family could be taken away from her. It’s this sudden burst of emotion that makes it such a gripping finale, and also a refreshing one, as Pesce is able to give the film the ending it deserves without the pressure or need to succumb to the modern horror epidemic of a franchise set up.
An instant cult classic, with a director firmly on the one-to-watch list, The Eyes of My Mother is not simply a film but a monochrome vision of hell itself.
THE EYES OF MY MOTHER is in cinemas from 24th March - www.parkcircus.com