The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

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“A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.” — IMDb

The Eyes of My Mother is director Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut, and an impressive one at that. It’s an extremely intentional black & white arthouse horror film, with more attention to detail than gore throughout.

The story centers around Francisca (played by Olivia Bond first and then Kika Magalhães who was particularly awesome), a young girl whose quiet, simple life is turned upside-down by the murder of her mother (Diana Agostini) and, shortly after, the passing of her father (Paul Nazak).

** SPOILERS! **

I thought the choice of black and white was excellent. There were many scenes that played out like beautiful, striking photographs set in motion. It also dulled the gore (that was more plentiful now that I think about it in retrospect than I honestly noticed in the moment) while letting us focus on more of the emotion (or lack thereof) in the more brutal scenes. But some shots, like Francisca climbing into the tub while bathing her father’s body, are made into pure heartbreaking art by the color choice.

Charlie (Will Brill), the man who kills Francisca’s mother with an unabashed enthusiasm that was disturbing to see, was a great character that I almost wish we saw more of. He just immediately made me feel uncomfortable even before having any inkling of his true intentions.

Each scene — every single one — felt very intentionally placed and timed. Nothing was left out, and nothing was there just as a frill… it was meticulously planned.

Francisca both as a child and as an older teenager (we’re never really sure of her true age but she seems to be 20 at the oldest) has this detached fascination about her. You get the sense that she’s barely ever had to focus on anyone but herself. Her mother’s mention of “loneliness can do strange things to the mind” couldn’t be more apt. She works in silence, methodically playing out some truly twisted acts with the casual mood one might have while slicing a cucumber (I didn’t mean for that comparison to be so accurate but there it is), and yet there’s such a desperation about her, such a yearning to be less alone, and an unwillingness, or inability, to see how her desires affect others. Her stealing the woman’s baby was another example: watching her cuddle and coo at the baby, finally having someone who will be forced to be her companion, as the child’s mother crawled, gasping, towards her was chilling.

One of the few times she breaks this blankness is when she finally kills Charlie after he escapes from the barn. Her stabbing him is almost sensual, especially as she rubs his hair and kisses his neck, and it made it one of the most disturbing murder scenes I’ve seen in a LONG time

Ultimately, less is more, and Pesce really knew how to use that to his advantage with a brilliant combination of artful shots, a heartbreaking desire to ease pain and loneliness, and unapologetic views of violence and sadism, a sort of Americana-gone-very-wrong.

Rating: 8/10 | Director: Nicolas Pesce | Writer: Nicolas Pesce | Music: Ariel Loh | Cinematography: Zach Kuperstein | Starring: Olivia Bond, Kika Magalhães, Diana Agostini, Will Brill, Paul Nazak, Joey Curtis-Green, Flora Diaz, Clara Wong

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