Film Review: THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (USA 2016) ***1/2

the_eyes_of_my_mother_movie_poster.jpgDirected by Nicolas Pesce

Writer: Nicolas Pesce

Stars: Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill, Olivia Bond

Review by Gilbert Seah

It takes less than the first 10 minutes of watching THE EYES OF MY MOTHER to realize that this is going to be one creepy, scary little film. Writer/director/editor Nicolas Pesce seems to have got the grip of the art of creepiness.

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER can best described as a gothic horror film. It is shot in black and white with the set design set up as a gothic tale, though the setting of the story is the remote American countryside where the subjects live on an isolated farm. The camera almost always tracks the characters from the back. The characters from the mother to the daughter and father to the stranger all possess a weird look. The music (by Ariel Loh) is haunting and the cinematography (by Zach Kuperstein) chillingly dark. The dialogue is ripe for terror. The boy is scolded by the mother at one point in the film: “I told you never to go in the barn.” or “You have done this before, haven’t you?” the girl questions the serial killer.

The story begins with a home invasion killing but the victim daughter indulges in more violent acts. Pesce also ensures the audience feel the horror. When Francisca ties a cloth around a victim’s neck, one can almost feel the tightening of the cloth as the moaning highlights the horror.
Francisca (Olivia Bond) and her mother (Diana Agnostini) live on a farm where they raise cows and other animals. A trained surgeon, Francisca’s mother teaches her how to remove eyeballs (another creepy scene) from farm animals, and is taught the legend of Francis of Assisi. Suddenly, Charlie (Will Brill), a door to door salesman, appears and against her better judgment, Francisca’s mother lets him use the bathroom. After a struggle, Charlie kills Francisca’s mother.

The father (Paul Nazak) arrives home and injures Charlie. Francisca and her father bury Francisca’s mother in the backyard while holding Charlie captive in the barn. Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) is now grown up. Charlie explains to her, the incomparable thrill of killing others. Francisca then removes Charlie’s eyes and vocal cords. Francisca explains to Charlie that he was not killed because she has no other friends, and tortures Charlie with her mother’s surgical tools.

This is only the mild part of the film. It gets really horrifying when Francisca steals the baby of a woman, Lucy (Flora Diaz) she hitches a ride from. Lucy is given the same treatment as Charlie and kept in chains in the barn for years while the baby grows up to become a boy. Francisca is the name given to Francis of Assisi who is the patron saint of animals and the natural environment. The character survives in her little world of animals and nature in her own distorted universe.

To watch an innocent mother deprived of her baby son, and blind and dumbed, living in bondage is unbearable. So, the film is definitely not for the faint hearted. Pesce’s film, that premiered at Sundance to accolades is well constructed and executed achieving what it intended – to scare or horrify audiences. But it is clearly not everyone’s film – so, the faint hearted had better stay away.



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