Sometimes you watch a movie and by the time it's over your left stunned and amazed at what you just watched. Other times when you watch a movie you're dazed and confused by what you spent the last hour and a half of your time on. The Eyes of My Mother falls somewhere in between those posts. At the time of this writing I am about twenty minutes removed from having finished the movie and I'm not sure how to feel. This is one of those rare horror movies that literally left me speechless, even when trying to tell my wife what the movie was about, but I'm going to try best. It will be impossible to talk about this movie without going in to spoilers, so if you care about those go watch the movie first and then come back here.
The Eyes of My Mother is the 2016 debut film of writer and director Nicolas Pesce. Starring nobody I've ever heard of the film clocks in at an extremely short 77 minutes. Having never heard of the movie before I checked the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and surprisingly it's sitting at certified fresh rating of 75% from critics and a not so fresh rating of 56% from audiences. It also sits at a 6.1 on IMDB but that's not as impressive given the nature of IMDB. Needless to say a certified fresh rating always attracts my attention when I'm looking at potential movies to watch.
The Eyes of My Mother follows a girl named Francisca over the course of three chapters: Mother, Father and Family. In the first chapter Francisca is a young girl living with her parents on their farm. Her mother, an ex-surgeon from Portugal, is teaching Francisca about anatomy - specifically about the eyes. One day a traveling salesman named Charlie shows up. From the moment he enters the film it feels off. You can tell by the way he talks that something is not right with him, and it turns out he is actually a serial killer and murders Francisca's mom. Her dad catches Charlie in the act and injures him, chaining him up in the barn as a result. In a conversation with Francisca Charlie confesses that killing is the most fantastic feeling in the world, and Francisca removes his eyes and vocal chords, saying she won't kill him because he is her only friend.
By the time the second chapter starts Francisca has grown into an adult and her father has passed away. In a disturbing twist, Francisca has been preserving the body, bathing it, dressing it, and setting it on the couch to watch television. Eventually she dismembers the body and burns it, saying that he can now be reunited with his wife. She meets another girl at a bar and ends up killing her when she tries to leave the house. Meanwhile Charlie is still chained up in the barn. She unchains him and leads him into the house where it is implied that she sleeps with him, and he escapes in the middle of the night but without eyes he doesn't get very far before Francisca catches up with him and kills him, telling him that he was right and that killing is the most fantastic feeling in the world.
In the third chapter Francisca catches a ride home with a woman named Lucy and her infant child. When they get to the house Francisca kidnaps the baby, stabs Lucy, chains her up in the barn and removes her eyes and vocal chords just like she did with Charlie. She raises the baby as her own until he is of school age, when he then discovers Lucy in the barn. He sets her free and she manages to wander far enough away from the farm where she gets discovered by a truck driver. The film ends with the police arriving at the farm and shooting Francisca.
If there was one word I would use to describe The Eyes of My Mother, it would be methodical. This is a slow moving, deliberate movie despite the short run time. Every step of this movie is filled with tension that never slows down until the end of the movie. Visually this movie is amazing. Each shot is perfectly framed, and the decision to film in black and white only adds to the tension and overall creepiness of the movie. If there was one downside to the movie, it would probably be that the acting wasn't the best, probably due to there not really being any established names in it. The actress who plays adult Francisca is effectively creepy in her overall demeanor which is good because she pretty much carries the movie, but other than that there really isn't a strong performance to be seen.
Overall, this is a movie I would recommend. It's short enough that if you didn't enjoy it at least you didn't waste too much of your time, but the movie is visually stunning and extraordinarily unnerving. If you have seen The Eyes of My Mother drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts.