Thursday, 23 March 2017

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER review

In cinemas from Friday 24th March is Nicolas Pesce's beautiful and disturbing horror, The Eyes of My Mother.

"Everything we see passes through here" says a mother to her young daughter as they dissect a cows eyeball at the start of this film. A surgeon in her home country of Portugal, she is now living in small town America with her husband and daughter, Francisca. When a seemingly kind and well mannered stranger called Charlie approaches the house, this film shows the level of tension that can be induced by being both eerily still and sinister at the same time.

Presented in black and white, The Eyes of My Mother is a startlingly atmospheric film that is both grisly and gorgeous, and one that is deeply unsettling in its ability to shock whilst showing you very little. By stripping the film of a normal colour palette, your brain is required to fill in the blanks and left to imagine what colours are being cleaned off the kitchen floor. And that is among the film's greatest strengths; the ability to play on the audience's fear of the unknown, refusing to conform to traditional horror expectations. Just as you think a character is about to see their end, the film cuts away to the aftermath. It also plays on some basic human fears, such as eye trauma (especially eye trauma) and the danger of picking up a stranger in your car. Add to that the perceived mundanity of Francisca's life as she cares for her father, and there are many factors that the audience may find disconcertingly familiar.

Separated into chapters (I. Mother. II. Father III. Family) that see Francisca at different times of her life, there are prolonged periods of silence interspersed with distant hums in the background, as if someone is playing music in a room at the end of a long, dark corridor. The passage of time is fluid and able to jump forward, leaving you to ponder the consequences that have befallen some of the less fortunate characters.

Often drenched in darkness both figuratively and literally, the extent of the trauma Francisca is able to inflict is slowly revealed and is utterly horrific in nature, from a place that will linger in the mind of the audience for a long time. As played by Kika Magalhaes, Francisca appears to be a quiet, pure woman, hiding the most awful of her deeds in the barn and the life she lives behind a shroud of innocence. It's a fantastic performance of a complex character, reserved with the capability of shocking us through the simplest of actions.

With photography and some tonal elements that recall the work of Jonathan Glazer and directed with tremendous skill by first timer Nicolas Pesce, The Eyes of My Mother is a genuinely terrifying film with startling visuals of retina pervading power that travel deep into the darkest recesses of the soul.

The Eyes of My Mother is in cinemas from 24th March.

Verdict
4/5

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