Fantasia Film Festival 2016 Review: Nicolas Pesce's THE EYES OF MY MOTHER

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER is a film unlike anything I have seen this year or in years past. Going into this movie I had no expectations nor any idea of what the synopsis was which I think made the experience of viewing this that much more intense.  What this film does that so many of it’s predecessors can’t is leave such a profound impact on the viewer that it’s hard to shake off the experience of seeing it.  The film centers around Francisca and how her life is shaped, as a child and eventually an adult, after a brutal attack takes place in her family’s home.  The film, by first time writer/director Nicolas Pesce is shot in black and white and stars Kika Magalhaes (Francisca), Diane Agostini (Mother), Paul Nazak (Father), and Will Brill (Charlie).  

Before delving into what this film is really about I have to take a moment and comment on the amazing camera work as well as the precision and beauty of some of the scenes.  There is not enough praises I can give to cinematographer Zach Kuperstein for his masterful work in bringing to life such a visually beautiful film.  I’ve always been a fan of contrast in color, it’s something that I try to do as often as possible in my own art work, so I loved the use of black vs. white along with soft shade of grey tones throughout the film.  Those soft shades gave me a false sense of comfort as they always seemed to be more prevalent during times when extreme violence was occurring. The pacing of the film was superb and the only time I felt rushed was towards the end.  The film doesn’t have a long runtime, 76 minutes to be exact, but I feel as though it would have benefited to have an additional 15 minutes or so tacked onto the end to flesh out the last act of the movie.  

When it comes to the story, Nicolas Pesce nailed it.  Horror is supposed to make you uncomfortable and it’s so rare to find a horror film that pushes you to a place of discomfort without the use of jump scares.  I don’t think THE EYES OF MY MOTHER had one jump scare but it was able to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire viewing.  The film follows the life of Francisca after she has witnessed a brutal act towards her mother.  As the film progresses from that moment, you can already tell there is something deeply wrong with Francisca.  She has very little to no emotions with what she has just witnessed and this lack of empathy is something that carries throughout the whole movie, and is shown on a much deeper level when she takes certain things into her own hands.  When the film ended it left me wondering about her character’s upbringing and how much of an influence her parents had on her growing up.  Was she a product of her parents influence, something that we didn’t have a chance to see on screen, or was she always meant to be someone who hurt and destroyed those around her, or did her mind get destroyed by what she witnessed at a young age?  Even though I wish I knew the answers, I like that the director didn’t give that away, and I like that I had to come up with my own interpretation of how Francisca ended up being the person that she is.  

I’m being vague about the film on purpose because words won’t do this film justice.  It’s a movie that is incredibly uncomfortable to watch and at times I felt like I was wrongly peeking into a family’s life and seeing their secrets spilled forth.  This movie had a very voyeuristic nature to it and I felt displaced and almost disgusted with myself for viewing the lives of this family only to then remind myself that this is just a movie.  Though the gore wasn’t over the top like a lot of other films in this genre, it was enough to make me squeamish and want to turn away from the screen.  Even through all of this, the uncomfortable feelings and gore, it wasn’t enough to make me stop watching as I found myself glued to the screen. 

In conclusion, the best way I can describe Nicolas Pesce’s THE EYES OF MY MOTHER is that it’s the most uncomfortable and disturbing yet visually striking film I have seen in years.  For a debut film, Nicolas Pesce hit a grand slam and I’m excited to see what he has in store for the future.  Do yourself a favor and if this film comes around make sure you get a chance to watch it, it’ll affect you in a way you didn’t think was possible. 

Devastatingly Yours,
Shannon M. 

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER had it's Canadian Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival on July 18