‘My Mother’s Eyes’ Salem Horror Fest 2024 Review: Beautiful And Questionable Chaos

Mother and daughter relationships are complicated even under the best of circumstances. So, they are one of the best places to start when mapping out a psychodrama like My Mother’s Eyes. Writer-director Takeshi Kushida’s tale opens with a lengthy shot of a woman’s eyes as she gives birth. Here is where the relationship between Hitomi (Akane Ono) and her daughter Eri (Mone Shitara) really begins. However, nothing in this movie is simple or as it seems on the surface.

Hitomi and Eri seem close at first glance. They’re celebrated cellists who perform together, after all. But something is amiss. As we’re trying to figure out if Hitomi is jealous of her daughter or simply using her as an extension of herself, the movie takes a huge turn. As Eri tells Hitomi that she knows giving birth to her is her biggest regret in life, their car crashes. Hitomi awakens without sight and discovers that Eri is paralyzed from the neck down. This seemingly marks her daughter as a lost cause to her and she leaves her unconscious body in the hospital.

She sets out to regain her vision via a contact lens device with a built-in camera. However, she does return for one visit when her daughter awakens. She gifts her a pair of VR goggles so that they may share a single vision. This forces them to grow closer than ever before even though her mother is starting a new life. This is also where My Mother’s Eyes gleefully peels off the last thin layers of restraint and gets even weirder.

Also Read: ‘Liminal’ Salem Horror Fest 2024 Review: The South Is Scary

Hitomi is a cold woman and I love to see questionable moms in media because that’s reality. We shouldn’t let her off the hook for abandoning her daughter’s body in the hospital. Her idea to share the same vision and way too many intimate experiences, because they are now joined, is also concerning. I see glimmers of those mothers who pour all of their frustrations about giving up parts of themselves to raise a child onto their offspring. However, she’s too interesting and complex to simply paint as a villain. Plus, there are bigger threats as she realizes the people who restored her sight have ill intentions. 

Putting Eri in the victim column, even though she’s a child who’s happy to finally be forming a genuine bond with her mother, is also reductive. It’s heartbreaking when she asks her mother, “Why do you pretend you love me? Is it for me or for you?” and Hitomi doesn’t have a satisfactory answer. However, the character is so much more than just a vessel for audiences to dump pity into. The family dynamics at play here are rich and interesting. The movie leaves you trying to untangle it all long after the credits are over. Much like Hitomi, My Mother’s Eyes keeps everyone at arm’s length. This makes it hard to gauge how you should feel about it from one moment to the next.

Also Read: ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’ Review: A Frustrating Attempt To Revive The Past

Off the bat, mama trauma is one of the most unsettling horror topics for me as a person. I’m in the majority of people who have a complicated relationship with my own mom. So, I was already stressed out before people started inserting things into Hitomi’s eyeballs. I had to look away multiple times as I squirmed in my seat. The eye horror was the most distressing part of the film for me. I was completely fine with all of the people who fell victim to cello bows. However, the tense shots of fingers pushing futuristic contact lenses onto pupils are what sent me to hell. This is when I stopped wondering if this was basically an extended Black Mirror episode set in Japan. 

My Mother’s Eyes is a bold and artistic story about a mother and daughter discovering they are soulmates. As the story goes on, the line dividing where one begins and the other ends gets more literal and less metaphorical. It manages to rise above the expectation of a film at the intersection of arthouse and Black Mirror. It reaches for something more unique as the chaos continually escalates in unexpected ways. I doubt this strange movie will be everyone’s cup of tea. However, I love a tale that investigates the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and doesn’t give you easy answers. I’m also here for movies that paint outside the lines, almost daring the audience to rethink what they have been taught about storytelling. I find that commendable in this age where people go to TikTok with conservative moral outrage while refusing to do even the most basic script analysis. 

Did you also see My Mother’s Eyes at Salem Horror Fest this year? Then let me know if you also enjoyed this cool and strange movie at @misssharai.

  • My Mother's Eyes
3.0

Summary

‘My Mother’s Eyes’ is a bold and artistic story about a mother and daughter discovering they are soulmates. It manages to rise above the expectation of a film at the intersection of arthouse and ‘Black Mirror’. It reaches for something more unique as the chaos continually escalates in unexpected ways.

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