The Eyes of My Mother Review

Posted: September 19, 2016 in 2016 Fantasy FilmFest, Drama, Horror, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

The Eyes of My MotherEvery year, we invariably hear of one or more movies that “redefine” or “reinvent” the horror genre. Most times, careful viewings of the films in question reveal a slick repackaging of familiar conventions. Often, the redefining is a twist on a twist; the reinvention is a reversal of expectations. Horror fans take these slight alterations in style in stride, noting the degree of success by the extent of the imitations they spawn. The new becomes the old within a relatively short period of time, and the genre is reset.

So let us be clear. The Eyes of My Mother, which has been playing exclusively at film festivals since its premiere at Sundance and is scheduled for a limited release in December, does not redefine or reinvent or reimagine the horror genre. The effect of this film is somewhat greater. It demolishes the safe zone for horror movie fans. Even the most battle-tested, midnight movie warriors will need to gird their loins for what director/screenwriter Nicolas Pesce has unleashed in his first feature film.

Horror is almost too soft a description; this film could freak out David Lynch. The Eyes of My Mother is a 72-minute muted primal screen, delivered in the absolute starkest black-and-white imagery. At times, it plays like a post-feminist performance art piece, given how uncompromising the approach is. Imagine a young woman bathing her father’s corpse and then crawling into the bathtub with him. Imagine a mother with a knife in her back struggling toward the bed where another woman is comforting her crying infant. No matter how capable your imagination is, the actual scenes carry a power that cannot be anticipated.

Divided into three parts, Mother, Father, and Family, the film tells the story of Francisca (played by Olivia Bond as a child and Kika Magalhaes as an adult) who lives in a unremarkable rural location with her parents. Her mother, was an ophthalmic surgeon in Portugal before emmigrating, and she instructs young Francisca in surgical techniques using livestock. Her father (Paul Nazak) seems an unremarkable farmer. One day while the father is out, a young man (Will Brill in an unforgettable turn), appears. What he does is horrible; how the family reacts is worse.

Without external societal guidance or internal moral values, Francisca is left to recreate a sense of family. Despite what was taken from her, Francisca, as played by Magalhaes, is neither passive nor a victim. Rather, she is – ahem – motivated and results-oriented. This sublime performance is essential, given the demands the movie places on the viewer. The entire cast is terrific; the crew as well, with special kudos for cinematographer Zach Kuperstein.

One cautionary note – do not take the MPAA rating lightly in this case. The Eyes of My Mother is a hard R rated film. This is no splatter flick; the most horrific acts occur off camera. However, the consequences of such acts – physical and emotional – are on full display. The movie is simply not for everyone, but unforgettable for those ready to go beyond convention.

  1. I am always on the lookout for films like this (much to my Mother’s dismay haha) so this was really interesting to come across! Thank you for writing about it!

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