The Eyes of My Mother

Review by Dan Einav

Directed by

Nicolas Pesce

Starring

Kika Magalhaes Olivia Bond Will Brill

Anticipation.

Some recent black and white films have been excellent.

Enjoyment.

This one, sadly, is not.

In Retrospect.

More likely to send you to sleep than keep you up at night.

There’s a twisted Freudian logic behind this maternal horror from Nicolas Pesce.

When genre maestro John Carpenter was asked what makes an effective horror film, he pithily answered, “It should be scary.” This may seem reductive, but watching Nicolas Pesce’s insipid The Eyes of My Mother, it’s clear that some directors should make sure they’ve mastered the basics before they try to do something new within the genre.

This debut feature is about a girl, Francisca (played by Olivia Bond and Kika Magalhaes), who descends into a life of madness and gruesome violence after witnessing her mother butchered by a crazed travelling salesman (Will Brill).

The film is shot in black-and-white and there are plenty of great macabre compositions, including a particularly striking one of a cow’s head on a table. But the decision to film in monochrome signals that perhaps Pesce wasn’t entirely certain whether he wanted to make a traditional hair-raising thriller, or a more stylised art-house chiller. In the end he doesn’t really achieve either.

One of the most problematic aspects of this film is its inconsistent pacing. The opening sequence feels rushed, as the mother is hacked to pieces before any tension is built up. The way the story initially unfolds cultivates the expectation that this will be a psychological mediation on how trauma can transform a victim into a callous murderer.

Instead, Pesce gives his characters unconvincing motivations such as when one says of killing that it, “feels amazing”. And while there’s a twisted Freudian logic behind the maternal instincts Francisca displays towards her mother’s killer, this point is so heavy-handed that it completely diminishes any broader impact. And for all the nightmarish potential of this story, the actors appear to be serenely sleepwalking in their parts.

The detached, almost inhuman performances succeed at times in lending an eeriness to the film, but there’s something risible rather than haunting in the monotone delivery of a line such as, “I killed [my father]”.

Published 27 Mar 2017

Anticipation.

Some recent black and white films have been excellent.

Enjoyment.

This one, sadly, is not.

In Retrospect.

More likely to send you to sleep than keep you up at night.

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