When describing Nicolas Pesce’s The Eyes of my Mother, many reviewers who watched this Sundance and Fantastic Fest standout used words like “gruesome” and “unsettling”
Perhaps this reviewer isn’t as easy to shake, as while there are certainly extremely brutal elements in The Eyes of my Mother, this film seemed to have more similarities to a film such as Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, (such as a Sundance pedigree, a black and white but yet somehow coloured-saturated tone, a deep sense of style, very few words). But comparing the two films outright robs The Eyes of My Mother of its own mileu. The film succeeds largely due to its casting of actress Kika Magalhaes (who plays the second version of lead character Francisca). The fact that Magalhaes was trained as a dancer informs a great deal of the sensibility of the film. It helps to translate and sympathasize with a great deal of evil.
Please forgive a second flawed comparison, but a film involving a female lead trained as a dancer performing unspeakable acts in a remote location (in this case an abandoned farmhouse) calls to mind one of the more inventive and engaging films of the past couple of years, Ex Machina. While Alex Garland’s film featured a pair of former ballet dancers in now star Alicia Vikander and Sonoya Mizuno, this film removes the sci-fi element. There is still something unworldly about Francisca, especially when played by Magalhaes, as the actress looks almost inhuman with her large, expressive head and face and lean body that makes the film a sort of examination of a femme fatale for the twenty-first century.
The wide shots and sort of faraway remove exemplify the horror, but this is a film that would truly benefit from being seen on a big screen (and perhaps running from it afterwards). Your eyes will thank you.
The Eyes of My Mother is now playing at the Imagine Carlton Cinema in Toronto.