The Eyes of My Mother (USA, 2016)
Dir: Nicholas Pesce
Starring: Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill, Diana Agostini
In UK Cinemas early 2017
Plot: As a young girl, Francisca witnesses the murder of her mother (Agostini) at the hands of a home invader, Charlie (Brill). Her father beats Charlie but Francisca secretly cares for him in the barn. Now a woman, Francisca (Magalhaes) lives in fear of the isolation her rural upbringing has left her in as her father dies. Praying to her mother for guidance leads her down a trail of murder, corpse defilement and surgical alterations.
The directorial debut for writer/director, Nicholas Pesce, The Eyes of My Mother shows that Pesce is a name to remember. A moody and often brutal tale of loneliness. It’s a story that reminds me of the famous killer, Ed Gein, a man who has inspired his fair share of films including Psycho, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The murderous, corpse-bothering ways of Francisca definitely draw a comparison to the Wisconsinite killer. Both also share a deep attachment to their mothers and an isolated upbringing. However while they may share similar begins, Francisca takes things much further in pursuit of her deranged happiness.
Francisca is a bit of a deranged killer but under the direction of Pesce, the film eases into it. We see where her reasoning lies even if it is massively flawed. We learn where her skills come from and why she uses them on her victims. The use of cinematography captures Francisca’s loneliness. Extreme long shots show her standing almost as a tiny speck amongst the towering trees that surround her home. The choice to make this film black and white instead of colour fills the screen with shadows, both beautiful and terrifying.
The Eyes of My Mother is not just a beautiful looking film, it is also incredibly well acted. The cast do a fantastic job, particularly Kika Magalhaes as Francisca. She shows all the complexity of the character, a girl stunted by trauma as a child and terrified of being alone. She is tender and loving but also desperate and brutal. She knows just what things she needs to do to get what she wants but doesn’t seem to understand the pain she’s inflicting on others. Her interactions with Charlie would be quite sweet if she hadn’t surgically cut his vocal chords. Will Brill’s screentime as Charlie may be short but he’s memorable for the time he’s there. His introduction as a murderous home invader is unnerving. His sweetness falls away quickly and his evilness becomes apparent, not only in his words but in his physical acting too.
While stories that mimic the killings of Ed Gein are nothing too original now, The Eyes of my Mother still manages to have a freshness about it. It’s more artistic and stylish than other necrophilic gore fests that have taken similar inspirations. This film seems to take a much more psychological route, focusing on the why rather than the what. Francisca’s fears are what drives her, and her memories of her mother is what justifies her actions.