Eyes of My Mother, The (2016)


eyes-of-my-motherStarring Kika Magalhães, Will Brill, Flora Diaz, Paul Nazak, Clara Wong, Diana Agostini, Olivia Bond

Directed by Nicolas Pesce

The Eyes of My Mother is an amazingly assured Gothic horror film from Nicolas Pesce, a first-time writer-director who didn’t even cut his teeth – or peel his eyes – on short films before diving headfirst into an ambitious and arresting feature. (However, Pesce was an editor and well connected with the folks in the production company who made the movie.)

Following the recent success of Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night while harkening back to Polanski’s Repulsion, The Eyes of My Mother follows the eerie exploits of a strange young woman by using sweeping black and white cinematography juxtaposed against minimalist performances within limited locations.

The story opens on young Francisca (Bond), living a quiet but seemingly carefree life on a small cow farm surrounded by woods and fields. Mother (Agostini) is a surgeon who loves to slice eyeballs with a scalpel in her spare time and has no qualms about showing her daughter the ins and outs of autopsying a hapless heifer. It’s like a squelchy sequel to Bunuel’s Un chien andalou.

Forlorn Francisca is in the yard of her family’s isolated house with her unsmiling mother one day when a rather creepy stranger (Brill) approaches them and asks politely to use their restroom. Mother is reluctant and suspicious but lets him in anyway. He savagely murders her just because “it feels good.” Francisca’s father (Nazak) comes home, but it is too late to save his wife. However, he does manage to wreak a unique and lasting revenge on the intruder and shatter his daughter’s fragile psyche in the process.

Years pass. After Father dies of old age, Francisca (now played by Magalhães) finds herself all alone on the secluded farm. She’s lonely and knows of only one way to get people to stay with her (cue the Psycho theme).

The haunting imagistic compositions illustrate fractured Francisca’s estrangement and imbalance by jumping between the voyeuristic and the claustrophobic – scenes of violence are either shown dreamily from afar or up close in frenzied gut punches. The simple yet effective score adds to an ambiance of unease as the young woman unravels. Magalhães is a tremendously good actress. It’s to her credit that Francisca is sympathetic but not pitiful.

There are lots of blank spaces with no exposition or explanation, but that’s okay. The languid, deliberate pace is just right as The Eyes of My Mother clocks in at 80 minutes and ends on a satisfying if bleak note. After it ends, one wonders what’s next for Pesce and looks forward to seeing it.

I can’t say I “enjoyed” The Eyes of My Mother. It’s not entertaining on any level. But it is an interesting, beautifully shot, and well-made horror film.

  • Film
User Rating 3.27 (11 votes)


Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter