After a brief framing sequence, we open on a little girl, Francisca (Olivia Bond) being taught by her mother (Diana Agostini) first about Saint Francis and then about how to dissect a cow’s head, before a strange drifter (Will Brill) stops by and asks to use the bathroom. Being a strange drifter, he doesn’t really need to use the bathroom. He needs to kill mother. All in glorious black and white. I think I want to stop there. Any more detail might actually spoil the viewers’ initial experience with this disturbing and bizarre film. Although I will say that her formative experience colors everything that happens in Francisca’s life from that point on. When the film eventually picks up years later, Kika Magalhaes has taken on the role of adult Francisca and is hypnotically, beautifully broken. First time feature writer/director Nicolas Pesce focuses more on the aftermaths of violence than the actual acts, oftentimes cutting away abruptly before we get a glimpse of anything too horrible. But seeing isn’t always necessary, and with the help of cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, a constant sense of unease infects the viewer as landscapes dwarf characters, isolating them, almost rationalizing them – for when one is truly alone in the world, what rules are there to follow? Even interiors are designed to separate and craft a stark sense of seclusion. There is no outside world here. Francisca’s most vivid motivation seems to be to avoid loneliness, but at what cost? Pesce’s script is lean and minimalistic, and the character of Francisca owes as much to Audition’s Asami as it does to Through a Glass Darkly‘s Karin. The absence of dialogue through much of the film is buttressed by an amazing sound design that emphasizes the breaking of silence with chains dragged across wooden floors, winds rushing through trees, and the wet smack of food being eaten from buckets. As far as criticisms go, from a technical standpoint, the passing of time isn’t clearly delineated, but on the other hand, it adds to the dreamlike quality of Francisca’s story. There’s also an offhanded nihilism lurking beneath the surface, only sometimes broken by brief outbursts of painful loneliness, longing, and fear. This isn’t your typical torture-porn approach to horror, but it shares some similarities, veering off into bleak, existential dread instead of wallowing in gore and violence. In the end, the result is very much the same. The brutality of life is made manifest in acts of desperate control and desperate need for contact. Magalhaes is a wonder, tragic and strong, with a graceful innocence that belies darkness. With hardly any dialogue, she is able to craft a performance that demands attention. Every flick of a wrist, every tilt of the head, every sudden, violent outburst is mesmerizing. One of the things I mention fairly regularly when reviewing low-budget, indie horror films, is how the idea has to make use of whatever is at hand. The Eyes of My Mother takes a minimal cast, an isolated single location, and innovative approaches to representing both violence and psychology to create one of the best-looking and best-actualized low-budget horror films I’ve seen in years. As a debut feature, Nicolas Pesce knocked it out of the park, and it was all because he realized that not only did he have to make do with the small cast and limited locations, he had to push the boundaries of his initial concept and have the audacity to challenge the viewer with a simple surface idea loaded with complex underlying implications. This, combined with a near-flawless execution, makes The Eyes of My Mother one of the most successful horror films of the year. The Eyes of My Mother will be released theatrically and on VOD, Friday December 2, 2016. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.