The Eyes of My Mother (Nicolas Pesce, 2016, USA)

The Eyes of My Mother is the debut feature of Brazilian-American director Nicolas Pesce. Clocking in at a brief 77 minutes, this bilingual feature (English and Portuguese) is shot in black and white. While the film didn't make waves when it came out, it has since developed something of a cult following. It is easy to see why, as the film is a unique entry into the arthouse horror genre. Essentially an extended meditation on family trauma, the film takes place at the remote home of our protagonist Francisca. 

The first chapter of the film centers on the murder of Francisca's mother by a stranger, and the subsequent revenge on the stranger by her father. The stranger, Charlie, is kept chained as a prisoner in the family barn throughout the film, and Francisca develops a relationship with him. The second segment of the film features an adult Francisca. Still traumatized by her past, the adult Francisca befriends another young woman - Kimiko - at a club. She brings her back home and - in a clear ode to Norman Bates - ends up killing this woman. The final third of the film is Francisca's total descent into madness, including a kidnapping of a baby and a startlingly bleak finale. 

While The Eyes of My Mother seems to have a lot to say, it is a bleak and fairly humorless piece that doesn't leave the viewer a lot of breathing room. Beautifully shot, it nevertheless overstays its welcome even during its brief runtime. That said, it is easy to see why Pesce was able to transition into a studio director after this film (directing the reboot of The Grudge franchise). He certainly has a mastery of the frame, and some scenes within The Eyes of My Mother are very memorable. Worth watching, but with reservations.



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