Review: The Eyes of My Mother (Fantasia 2016)

The Eyes of My Mother is being presented at the 20th anniversary of the Fantasia Film Festival and is the first film I will be reviewing for the fest. If this is an indicator of the quality that Fantasia is bringing this year, the fest should be amazing. Right off the bat let me say that this film is a MASTERPIECE. This film will crawl into your brain, dig its pincers way in and never let go until its end. Not since Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs has a film grabbed me like this. It automatically jumps to my pick as best film of the year and a major contender for best of the decade. The writer, director and editor of this film, Nicholas Pesce, at the age of 26, has crafted a beautiful black and white nightmare with images that will be seared into my brain forever. In a shot where a prisoner is trying to escape, we watch him through a window, and he’s in the distance struggling as his stalker nears. We see this as if we were living in the house with our main character; beautiful and chilling. There is an overhead shot of a girl so distraught, as she realizes that she is now totally alone, she climbs into a tub of murky water for a last embrace with the last person who will truly love her. These are heartbreaking and terrifying images that will forever linger. The Eyes of my Mother is evidence pointing to the emergence of a great filmmaker.

The film begins at a country house where a mother (Diana Agostini) is very oddly and graphically explaining, as well as giving a demonstration, on a cow concerning her profession as an optometrist to her young daughter, Francisca, (Olivia Boand). After the graphic surgical display of optical removal, the girl is playing outside where she is met by a stranger (Will Brill), who will alter the course of their lives for the worse. What ensues from there I will not go into because it is best that the viewer proceed into this film blind like I did. There are no insane plot twists and turns, but instead a horrifying dissection of loneliness and how tragedy can alter a mind forever. Although based on the scene prior to the meeting with the stranger, and how that meeting is subsequently handled, I am inclined to believe that Francisca’s family was never a normal one. This is a film of ambiguity, which allows the viewer to fill in the blanks and create the missing narrative. Hence, the sparse 76 minute running time.

We then follow Francisca through different stages of her life as she tries to create a human connection and combat her loneliness with disastrous and disturbing results. As I watched the film and its characters, I kept saying to myself, as many do with horror films, why would you make that decision and what were you thinking when you did that? Then I realized that life is truly filled with people who do make those imprudent decisions. We constantly watch horror movies and say, “I would never do that,” but in life that constantly happens. People constantly make bad decisions, which end in tragedy. We watch the news or read; then we judge and state that we would never handle it that way. But sometimes, even though we as logical people can’t fathom it, said person makes that decision, gets in the car, gives the person a ride, lets the person use their phone or bathroom, and winds up dead as a result of some social anxiety about seeming rude. This film has moments like this but instead of them being a minus, they rang true for me.

The Eyes of My Mother has been shown at other festivals and has so far been polarizing audiences due to its graphic content. I’m sure it will gain a lot of attention when it hopefully gets a wider release. It’s a film that I’m sure will be studied forever and will gain classic status immediately. You will walk out of the cinema looking to discuss and I’m sure there will be a majority who will hate this. That’s what’s great about film, the debate; and you will debate this film. I implore the reader not to be turned off by its black and white photography, which is amazing, and the fact that it’s mostly dialogue free, which works perfectly, because you will be depriving yourself of a true cinematic experience. This is a film that screams for your attention in the most silent of ways, like Francisca’s poor victims.
5 out of 5 Zombie Heads

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