THE EYES OF MY MOTHER
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Director: Nicolas Pesce
Written by: Nicolas Pesce
Cast: Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill, Flora Diaz, Paul Nazak, Clara Wong
Screened at: Critics’ DVD, NYC, 11/17/16
Opens: December 2, 2016
First-time writer-director Nicolas Pesce can look forward at age twenty-six to fairly original contributions to fans of horror who, at the same time, have the necessary patience to sit through a lyricism that makes a serial killer almost likable. While you may compare parts of the plot to events in the “Saw” series, primarily the frequent use of chains to keep a psycho’s prey in place in the basement, “The Eyes of My Mother” is several levels higher. In fact, you’re likely to consider the young woman’s mom as a being with as much influence on her daughter, though dead, as influenced Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 “Psycho.”
The action begins with a foreshadowing: a truck driver finds a woman not simply taking a chance on hitching a ride on a lonely highway but lying down in front of his truck to increase her odds of rescue. Go back to Portuguese-American Francisca at about the age of ten, listening intently to the words of wisdom passed down from her mother (Diana Angostini). Even the mother’s dissection on the kitchen table of the eye of a cow might remind viewers of a similar incident in Luis Buñuel’s “Un chien andalou.” At the same time she absorbs lessons on the importance of kindness by the mother’s teaching of the life of St. Francis of Assissi, important in justifying the way that the daughter will respond even to the captives in her basement.
You need not look far to see how young Francisca loses her marbles, as she witnesses the brutal murder of her mother by a crazed man, Charlie (Will Brill), whom she reluctantly but stupidly allows into her farmhouse to “use the rest room.” Francisca is fond as well, of her father (Paul Nazak).
Go forward a few years and now Francisca (Kika Magalhaes), painfully lonely, seeks people to share her life, but is more than disappointed when they are unable to commit to the attention she seeks. As the tension slowly mounts, so do the bodies.
This slasher picture is filmed in black and white, presumably to further its arty credentials, and takes itself most seriously. There is no attempt at camp, irony or humor, nor should the film need those periods of comic relief. The soundtrack, not intrusive, delivers buzzing and the sounds of wind, plus several bits of Portuguese fado to allow Francisca to perform solitary dances. English is the principal language spoken, the few segments of Portuguese nicely subtitled in English with bright yellow characters.
Rated R. 77 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – A
Technical – B+
Overall – B