The Eyes of My Mother
Directed by: Nicolas Pesce.
Written by: Nicolas Pesce.
Starring: Kika Magalhaes (Francisca), Diana Agostini (Mother), Olivia Bond (Young Francisca), Will Brill (Charlie), Paul Nazak (Father), Joey Curtis-Green (Antonio), Flora Diaz (Lucy), Clara Wong (Kimiko).
The problem with many debut films is that their makers seem to want to accomplish too much. It’s almost as if they are worried they’ll never get another chance to direct a movie, so they’re going to cram this one film with everything they’ve ever wanted to say and do. Curiously, Nicolas Pesce’s debut film, The Eyes of My Mother, suffers from exactly the opposite problem – he doesn’t do quite connect all the dots in his film, which is clearly a deliberate choice, and yet the film feels so truncated, that I was often not precisely sure why Pesce was showing us what he shows us, and what we are supposed to take away from it. Yet, I cannot dismiss the film either – it is so wonderfully shot, in stark black and white, and gives you so many haunting, nightmare inducing images, that the film is not likely to leave your subconscious either. It just feels like an incomplete film – a film missing some of its connecting tissue.
The film has a disturbing first shot – a lone, wounded woman stumbling down the middle of a desolate highway, seen from the point of view of a truck driver, coming across her. We then flash back to an even more disturbing sequence – as demented young man named Charlie comes across a mother and her young daughter on their secluded property, talks his way inside, only to murder the mother. When the father eventually comes home, he discovers the killer still in the act, but he neither kills him, nor calls the police. Instead the killer will be locked, chained up in the barn – where Francisca, the daughter, will tend to him – for years. Much of the action happens when Francisca is now an adult, alone in the secluded house – trying to “seduce” other women.
I honestly do not know what to make of the film. The first 10 minutes are brilliant – if they were a short film unto itself, it would be one of the best of the year. Everything you need to know is included there – it’s one of those ironic stories – Stephen King’s short stories are like this – in which a monster meets an even worse monster, and suffers the consequences. The rest of the film – and since the entirety of the film is only 76 minutes, its only about an hour – though is odd, as if Pesce isn’t quite sure what he’s showing us or why. It almost seems like an exercise – he’s written his main character – a little girl, with odd parents, and a horrific experience in her past, into a corner, and decides to figure out what the hell would happen to her later on. He doesn’t provide a lot of context, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense, but dammit all – you won’t forget this film.
The ultimate problem with The Eyes of My Mother is that I don’t necessarily think the film has anything to say – or if it does, it’s too fractured to get whatever that point may be, across. Much of the film doesn’t make if you think about it at all. And yet, there is so much skill being used to assemble the film, and in the performances, you’re drawn along anyway. The Eyes of My Mother is far from a perfect film – I’m not even convinced it’s a particularly good one. What I do know is that I cannot wait to see what Pesce does next.