The Eyes of My Mother
The Eyes of My Mother may not be the most masterfully crafted of horror films, but it does succeed in what it sets out to do: impress visually and perturb psychologically. Writer and director Nicolas Pesce has certainly put together a high-quality picture considering his young age and the limited budget available.
Shot in black and white, the movie has the eerie atmosphere of a noir. Zach Kuperstein’s monochrome cinematography proves to be an apt choice as it stirs the imagination with a veil of ambiguity. By visually toning down the gore and dulling out the blood, the two-tone palette invites the audience to notice the subtler psychological horrors beyond the overt physical violence.
Set on a remote farm in the US, the film tells the story of Francisca (Kika Magalhaes), a little girl leading a quiet and isolated existence with her parents. Her mother, a former surgeon from Portugal, taught her everything about the human anatomy in a very matter-of-fact manner, and together they dissect farm animals, totally unfazed by the procedure.
When a stranger stops by the farm and asks to use their toilet, something very sinister begins to take shape. A brutal experience awakens Francisca’s psychotic tendencies, and her interactions with the outside world become increasingly twisted from that moment. Early on in the story, her mother says that “loneliness can do strange things to the mind”, and solitude does indeed become the motivator behind many atrocities.
Kika Magalhaes gives a very strong performance as the deeply disturbed yet perfectly collected Francisca. Her expressive eyes and awkward body language paint her character as chillingly unsympathetic but somehow also pitiable. Pesce tries to keep things balanced and is careful not to overdo the gruesome episodes. In fact, many of them are only implied or take place off-screen, and perhaps they are all the more effective this way. That is not to say that there is a shortage of sadistic events, however, as the audience is kept in discomfort throughout.
The story is divided into three sections and it progresses quickly, leaving some gaps in the narrative and ending abruptly. Some passages are decidedly far-fetched, but the genre does allow a margin for the absurd. More arthouse than jump-scares and screams, The Eyes of My Mother is effective in many ways, but it is not devoid of clichés. In fact, it evokes a number of other films of its kind, and it is not clear whether this is a subconscious homage or subtle mockery.
Artful, ambitious and deliberately unpleasant, Pesce’s debut is worthy of attention, and it promises more interesting work in the future.
The Eyes Of My Mother is released nationwide on 24th March 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Eyes of My Mother here: