Review: The Eyes of My Mother

Director(s)Nicolas Pesce
Principal CastKika Magalhaes as Francisca
Olivia Bond as Young Francisca
Paul Nazak as Father
Will Brill as Charlie
Diana Agostini as Mother
Release Date2016
Language(s)English, Portuguese
Running Time 77 minutes

It’s still hard for me to believe that the person who wrote and directed this also co-wrote and directed The Grudge , but after re-watching this movie I’m willing to chalk it up to an anomaly (I’ll re-watch Piercing to be sure.) This black and white horror movie is short, sweet, and to the point. It depicts a young girl, Francisca, undergoing a horrifying life changing event which triggers a psychotic break. What follows is her attempt at creating a new locus of meaning.

The plot progress through a series of chapters, each chronicling a different developmental stage of Francisca’s life. The first chapter looks at the traumatic event that causes our lead to experience a break with reality. She experiences a profound sense of alienation within herself and with the world around her, almost as if the anchor between her and the social world had been severed. As a result, she desperately looks for a replacement – either for the anchor or a replacement for the feeling the anchor provided. Most actions she ends up taking can be traced back to some earlier characteristic or moment from the movie, so the progression feels earned as opposed to just grandiose for the sake of being provocative.

Bond and Magalhaes do an amazing job as Francisca. The former portrays the slip into psychosis with natural ease like she genuinely has a different interpretation of the rules of the world. It’s disturbing at how childlike she comes off as she performs some haunting actions. The latter actress turns everything up a notch, so when things get even more demented it still all feels believable. She’s somehow “innocent” and shy, but the twists in her psyche are ever-present in everything from her actions to her dialogue. It’s like watching someone who exists in their own little world that only tangentially borrows with and interacts with our own.

The story is disturbing without being a spectacle in end of itself. Grotesque depictions of violence never happen. Instead, they’re hinted at through clever camera movement and cuts. We don’t see it happen, but imagining the brutality of events gives the movie a more transcendent sense of horror. If you’re not someone who likes to imagine the terrifying sequences the movie might not do it for you. It’s tasteful in its execution of the macabre, which gives it a clinical feeling. That juxtaposed against the sheer absurdity of Francisca’s life and actions keeps the movie feeling nauseating. You can feel the wrongness seep underneath your skin.

This is complimented by the black-and-white color palette. It gives the movie a timeless feel and accentuates its feeling as a clinical study of an analysand experiencing psychosis. It also doesn’t feel like a film-student gimmick. It’s purposeful in how it thematically reinforces the above and beautiful in the way its utilized to create stunning dynamic shots. There’s more than one slow pan across a room that reveals something unnerving made even worse by Francisca’s almost nonchalant interaction with the same. The lack of color and dynamic presentation forces you to pay attention to the disturbing visual as opposed to escaping in something more pleasant.

My only issue with the movie is how the third act /chapter progresses. Certain sequences occur that don’t match up with previous sequences from the other chapters. I didn’t care much about those issues in the moment, but looking back it’s really strange how the events of the story culminate into the climax. I don’t think it betrays the themes of the movie or its analysis of alienation and psychosis , and it definitely leaves an impact on you. It just feels like the earlier portions of it should have never happened from a “logical” standpoint.

Report Card

TLDRThe Eyes of My Mother works as a perverse clinical analysis of alienation and psychosis. It’s dark and oozing with a macabre absurdism that permeates its leads every action. There are disturbing scenes, but most of the horror works on the level of imagination and grappling with the decisions the movie makes. If you have an open mind, or like chilling psychological horror movies that focus on the act as opposed to the spectacle make sure to watch this. At 77 minutes only, it’s not like you have a lot to lose.
Rating9.7/10
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

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