Review: “The Eyes of My Mother”
If there is one type of film that is guaranteed to peak my interest, it is a polarizing, independent horror. That is especially true when opinions on the movie differ, in large part, because of how dark or unsettling the themes of the film and actions on the screen are. Take Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist” for example. I consider it a masterpiece, but many find it repulsive, and the fact that they find it so off-putting makes me hold it in even higher esteem. Nicolas Pesce’s debut film “The Eyes of My Mother” is a fine example, of a movie that some will hail as an impressive achievement in horror film-making and others will dismiss as a mere exercise in morbidity. I found it to be something akin to a beautiful, mesmerizing nightmare.
Francisca (played as a child by Olivia Bond and as an adult by Kika Magalhaes) lives, with her mother (Diana Agostini) and father (Paul Nazak), in an isolated farm house set deep in the countryside. Her contact with the outside world is minimal, as she spends her days wondering the surrounding fields and learning some strange lessons from her surgeon mother (like how to decapitate a cow and remove it’s eyeballs). Francisca is a quiet, sweet, innocent child until, one day, a deranged killer (Will Brill) visits their home, and commits an act of unspeakable horror against Francisca’s mother.
Fortunately for Francisca, her father returns home in time to would the killer and chain him up before he can harm the young girl. From that point on into adulthood, Francisca’s innocence and frailty are replaced by dark, sociopathic tendencies. With the loss of her mother and later her father, she is left with only the captive murderer and keeps him as a sort of pet, and eventually develops a twisted bond with him. Before long, though, her violent nature takes over, and she is left alone wanting to create a family of her own to combat the crippling loneliness she experiences.
“The Eyes of My Mother” is a devastating yet brilliant debut film from Pesce. It features gorgeous, black and white cinematography by Zach Kuperstein, as well as one of the best performances, in any horror film this year, by Kika Magalhaes. I was also blown away, by how much Pesce was able to fit into a 76 minute run time. Set in three segments, the film gives us a complete story beginning with Francisca’s developing into a monster and ending with her tragic, unavoidable fate.
As I said before, this movie certainly will not be enjoyable for everyone. It contains some grisly imagery, and disturbing themes. For people who like to be emotionally challenged by a movie, though, I cannot recommend it enough.