The Eyes of My Mother (2016) / Horror
MPAA Rated: R for disturbing violent content and behavior, and brief nudity
Running Time: 76 min.
Cast: Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini, Will Brill, Paul Nazak
Director: Nicolas Pesce
Screenplay: Nicolas Pesce
Review published January 17, 2017
Kika Magalhaes (Welcome Home) stars as Francisca, who experienced a tragedy as a young girl in which her eye surgeon mother (Agostini, The Cat's Meow) was brutally killed by a wayward psycho (Brill, Not Fade Away). That psycho gets an instant comeuppance, not through death, but by becoming the permanent companion of Francisca, who keeps the man chained in the barn on the family's secluded farm. Francisca, anesthetized toward the human body and death by a mother who taught her about dissection of animal bodies, performs horrible experiments on her new companion.
Without any family but her couch potato father (Nazak) and now absent mother, Francisca grows up without much of a social rudder to guide her, choosing to try to retain aspects of dead people around her to soothe her immense loneliness she feels. The acts she commits are horrible, but she thinks she is doing it out of a benign need to have a friend in her life. It's her way of trying to establish a sense of permanence she hasn't had since she was very young, with death and morbidity seemingly normalized in her mind from an early age.
First-time filmmaker Nicolas Pesce writes, directs and edits this nicely composed but underdeveloped horror flick, altering his original story around Portuguese model and actress Kika, with whom he had worked before as director of music videos prior to this feature production. One can see why she would be attractive to him, not only for her looks, but also her otherworldly features, as well as her quirky but graceful mannerisms.
The strengths are evident for Pesce as a director, with his penchant for giving his film a black-and-white European art-house aesthetic that immediately sets it apart from most jump-scare flicks regularly churned out on the cheap from Hollywood and all points beyond.
The thematic material is there regarding that aforementioned loneliness, the difficulties of coping with loss of loved ones, the desire to make physical connections with someone at any cost, as well as the arrested development that can occur in the absence of societal pressures. It is also about the dangers of extreme isolation, and how it can make people do some seriously effed up things (as they say, an idle mind is the Devil's playground).
However, despite these themes, they seem to be barely held together by a narrative that doesn't quite tell a story that connects. Instead, it grows every more dark and gruesome as it plays out, finally going into a free-fall in terms of watchability after the introduction of an innocent child into the mix. Were it not for the purpose of this review, I'd have stopped watching long before the end-credit roll, though I suspect viewer mileage will vary, especially depending on your level of interest in bleak, repulsive and sadistic chillers. The aesthetics suggest a future as a director for Pesce, but I'll probably look forward to what he does with a screenplay done by someone else more interested in content over style in storytelling.
©2017 Vince Leo