The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

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Critic Consensus: The Eyes of My Mother uses a shocking trauma to fuel a hauntingly hypnotic odyssey whose nightmarish chill lingers long after the closing credits.

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In their secluded farmhouse, a mother, formerly a surgeon in Portugal, teaches her daughter, Francisca, to understand anatomy and be unfazed by death. One afternoon, a mysterious visitor shatters the idyll of Francisca's family life, deeply traumatizing the young girl, but also awakening unique curiosities. Though she clings to her increasingly reticent father, Francisca's loneliness and scarred nature converge years later when her longing to connect with the world around her takes on a dark form. Shot in crisp black and white, the haunting visual compositions evoke its protagonist's isolation and illuminate her deeply unbalanced worldview. Genre-inflected, but so strikingly unique as to defy categorization, writer/director Nicolas Pesce's feature debut allows only an elliptical presence in Francisca's world, guiding our imaginations to follow her into peculiar, secret places.

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Critic Reviews for The Eyes of My Mother

All Critics (90) | Top Critics (21)

It is a stark, dreadful vision - but one that is fascinatingly executed, with a compelling central performance from Kika Magalhaes as a matter-of-fact monster.

Dec 16, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Chilling and disturbing, this is not a film for the faint-hearted.

Dec 15, 2016 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Writer-director Nicolas Pesce's debut feels unnervingly like a Diane Arbus photo that's been stretched into a film. Which is to say, it's unnerving.

Dec 9, 2016 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

This is what curdled Americana looks like - a Joel-Peter Witkin portfolio come to life and a vision of jus' folks weaned on isolation, madness, and good old Type O.

Dec 2, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Pesce and I obviously don't agree on what constitutes effective (or maybe just productive) ambiguity. It's not a bad film ... it just isn't all there.

Dec 2, 2016 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Ms. Magalhaes, a former dancer, uses her expressive eyes and graceful limbs to bring the intimacy and sensuality of her actions to vivid life.

Dec 1, 2016 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Eyes of My Mother

½

If it wasn't for the fact that I had no power yesterday, this would have been the movie that I watched. I wasn't gonna let those fuckers at the electric company ruin my October horror fest, so I watched it earlier today and I'm gonna watch The Killing Ground in a bit, so I'm still on schedule to make 31 movies this month. Like I said, I'm not gonna let those fuckers win. With that said, and this is probably a recurring theme in these reviews about horror movies that could, conceivably, portray events that could actually happen in real life. I feel like those tend to be some of the most effective, memorable and haunting horror movies. Not saying they have a monopoly on great horror movies, of course, but, to me, I've never found supernatural horror movies that scary, not that they can't be, but they've just never scared me. Same thing goes for slashers. That's not to say I don't enjoy these films, but they just don't really scare me. What does scare me, however, are not the made-up monsters, but the monsters that hide behind faces like yours and mine. Regular people, people that might even be some of your friends. Humans are a capable of a great amount of cruelty towards one another and that banality of evil, so to speak, is, truly, the scariest horror of all. Not that I think that phrase, the banality of evil, applies to such a person like Francisca in this movie, but she fits the description of looking like a normal human being. But, at least in Francisca's case, I don't think it should have been so much of a surprise that she did turn out the way she did. For, you see, Francisca's mother was an ophthalmologist back in her homeland of Portugal. Franny's, as she's referred to by Charlie, mother taught her all about the composition of the eye and how similar cow's eyes are to ours and, like a strange little girl, Franny was completely fascinated by this. In one of the more disturbing lines in the entire film, Franny tells Kimiko, someone she brings home from a bar, that, since she was little, she was always fascinated by what the inside of a human body looks like. And, again, this was seemingly before Charlie, the murderous psychopath, came to her house and murdered her mother, when she was a young child. So, to me, Franny was already messed up in the head prior to Charlie coming into her life and murdering her mother. I just think the fact that Charlie murdered her mother helped speed everything up in Franny's own mind. Not that she started killing at that age, but she was definitely gonna head down that path at one point in her life, I just think it ended up being sooner in her life. She, as a child, removes Charlie's eyeballs and vocal chords and keeps him chained up in this barn her father owns. She doesn't kill him because, she says, Charlie is her only friend. And, for years, until Franny is an adult it seems, she has taken care of Charlie, she has fed him and 'looked' after him. The film moves forward in time to the day when Franny's father passes away and she is now an adult. The thing about the movie is that, while it seems like nothing is really going on, given how it's paced and how there's not a lot of conventional dialogue, is that it really digs deep into the type of person that Franny is and the issues she faces. It's a movie with a lot going in spite of its admittedly minimalist approach to its storytelling. There's only a few story beats here, but the movie gets as much as they can from them. And it helps when you have such a compelling character as Franny as its core. She is not a woman that you like, in any way, but you find her completely fascinating. I don't know, the way I perceive this character, I feel like she has severe abandonment issues. Given that her mother let Charlie in their house, when Franny was younger, maybe she feels that her mother abandoned her by letting this man, who ultimately killed her, in the house. But, at the same time, Franny idolizes her mother and, in a sick and twisted way, all she does in the movie is an attempt to impress her mother and make her proud. I feel that, what Franny is attempting to do, despite of how warped it may be, is to keep people from leaving her. That's literally her entire thing. The only time she kills people is when they threaten to leave her. Rather than being abandoned, she would literally rather kill these people so, in a way, they will always be with her, no matter what. I think that the ending of the movie is left purposely vague. Essentially, she kidnaps this baby and keeps the mother chained in the barn like she kept Charlie earlier on. Fast forward a bit and the child has now grown to be around six or something. Long story short, the kid's mother escapes, with his help, and a truck finds her on the middle of the road. The woman, apparently, with her eyes and vocal chords removed like Charlie, wrote down directions to the isolated farmhouse. The end of the movie sees a squad of police cars arriving as Franny wakes up her "son" Antonio. She puts him behind her, grabs a knife and they both cower on the floor of this room on the second floor. The cops come in, they tell her to put the knife down and Franny says, in Portuguese, that they'll never take her baby. Then the last shot of the movie is an aerial view of the house as you hear a gunshot from one of the policeman's shotguns. The implication being that Franny did, in fact, kill Antonio before being taken down herself. I feel like this is what's most probable, because of the fact that Antonio is hiding behind Franny as the cops come into the room. I don't think a cop, with a fucking shotgun, will risk harming Antonio just to get a shot at Franny. Either Franny lunged at them with a knife, which is probable, or, to me, the most likely scenario was that she stabbed Antonio and then she was shot. Again, Franny's entire thing was the fact that she could not handle anyone abandoning her. And, whether Antonio meant it or not, with the cops' arrival, he was going to be taken from her. Franny just couldn't let that be, so she took matters into her own hands and stabbed this kid to death. So, in a way, Antonio would always be hers, as I already mentioned. Again, the movie is such where every theory is equally viable, but I do believe the theory I posited seems most likely. Having said that, I thought this was a very good movie. I think its minimalist approach to its lead story, its cinematography and character helps add up adding to how disturbing everything is, even if the movie isn't as violent as, say, something like Ichi The Killer. I do think, however, that the film leans towards more arthouse horror than, say, almost every other horror movie I've watched this movie, even more than Hereditary, so I do think that that's probably gonna limit its appeal. But I did find this to be a really good movie, it does a very good job at creeping under your skin and staying there. It's not perfect, of course, but it's still a damn good movie. I wouldn't give it a wholehearted recommendation since, as I mentioned, it's probably gonna be too arty for some, but I definitely liked this movie and that's what matters.

Jesse Ortega
Jesse Ortega

Super Reviewer

Reminiscent of films like Excision and May.

Gimly M.
Gimly M.

Super Reviewer

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