If David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick had a baby, and that baby was raised on nothing but autopsy videos and raw meat, that child might have grown up to make The Eyes Of My Mother, the creepiest and most dreadful (in a good way) movie I’ve seen in a long time.
I’ll try to keep this spoiler-free, but…
Young Francisca (Olivia Bond) lives in an isolated farmhouse in a nameless city in a nameless county with her Mother (Diana Agostini) and Father (Paul Nazak). Mother used to be a surgeon and has taken to dissecting cow eyeballs on the dinner table to show her daughter how close they are to human eyeballs.
One day a weirdo (seriously–he’s all giggly and full of odd stares) named Charlie shows up while Francisca is playing in the yard and starts chatting to her. Mother comes out and Charlie asks to use the restroom. And then when they’re inside, he insists that Mother escort him to the bathroom and show him exactly where it is. And then he pulls a gun.
Father comes home from…wherever he goes during the day, sees Francisca sitting quietly on a chair and hears some odd rhythmic pounding from somewhere else in the house. He walks through the house, following the sound, opens up the bathroom door and sees bloody Charlie smashing something in the bathtub over and over and over…
I feel like I’ve already said too much. I’m really happy I saw this movie cold, and only watched the trailer, and didn’t read any articles or interviews about it. Father’s reaction to what happened to Mother is unexpected and unnerving, but also sad and dangerous. As Young Francisca becomes older, Kika Magalhaes plays her as an emotionless wide-eyed innocent, which makes all she does so much more horrifying. And, believe me, she does some horrible stuff during the movie’s scant 76 minutes.
The black and white cinematography is beautiful, crisp and clean, without the pretentiousness that comes with some b & w endeavors. Long static shots with deep focus make it almost seem like we are watching a stage play rather than a motion picture. Even the “normal” people that show up and interact with her are turned off and seem to get a visible chill from being in the same space as her. They should have heeded that feeling of foreboding.
First-time director Nicolas Pesce has made a most assuredly strong debut with this movie. His vision never wavers and he knows exactly what he’s doing, even as he takes us by the hand and leads us into the deep dark recesses of his mind. There are moments in The Eyes of my Mother that genuinely horrified me and made me really uncomfortable, but those moments happened anyway and now I can’t get those visions out of my head. Great.
Yes, there are also a few moments when I felt the heavy hand of the writer (also Pesce) forcing a character to do something out of, er, character just to make the movie move forward. It didn’t happen often, but it also didn’t help that one of those times was right at the beginning of the film.
There is no big message in this movie. There are no lessons to learn, no morals to take to heart. Its sole purpose is to share with you a chunk of life with these very odd, very creepy people, and with that as its goal, I’d say it succeeds beyond all expectations. Uncle Mike sez check it out! Available now in theatres and on demand.