The Eyes of My Mother [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Magnolia Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (6th March 2017).
The Film

American Independents (Audience Award): Nicolas Pesce (nominated) - AFI Fest, 2016
Best Cinematography Debut: Zach Kuperstein (nominated) - Camerimage, 2016
Chainsaw Award (Best Limited Release Film): The Eyes of My Mother (nominated) and Chainsaw Award (Best Actress): Kika Magalhaes (nominated) - Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, 2017
Grand Jury Award (Best Feature Film): The Eyes of My Mother (won), (Best Directing): Nicolas Pesce (won), (Best Screenplay): Nicolas Pesce (won), (Best Cinematography): Zach Kuperstein (won), and (Best Editing): Nicolas Pesce (won) - Fantastic Cinema Festival, 2016
Independent Spirit Award (Best Cinematography): Zach Kuperstein (nominated) - Film Independent Spirit Awards, 2017
iHorror Award (Best Direct Release Horror): The Eyes of My Mother (nominated) - iHorror Awards, 2017
ICP Award (Best First Feature): Nicolas Pesce (9th Place) - Indiewire Critics' Poll, 2016
Grand Jury Prize (Graveyard Shift Competition): Nicolas Pesce (nominated) - Nashville Film Festival, 2016

The daughter of Portuguese immigrants, Francisca (Olivia Bond) lives a sheltered and cloistered on an impoverished farm in the Midwest. She spends her days playing with dolls, imaginary friends, and learning dissection on cow's heads from her mother (The Eyes of Van Gogh's Diana Agostini) who was an eye surgeon in the old country during the war. One day while her father (Paul Nazak) is away one day seeking work, seemingly benevolent stranger Charlie (Beside Still Waters's Will Brill) shows up ostensibly spreading the good word and then precedes to rape and murder Francisca's mother as the child watches. Her father injuries Charlie but does not kill him for some reason, leaving Francisca in charge of the crippled man's care and feeding as he lies chained up in the barn. Francisca surgically experiments on Charlie, removing his eyes and his tongue, but he becomes her only friend and later her lover when she kills her father (it is left ambiguous as to whether this was a mercy killing or out of veiled anger for his emotional neglect of her and presumably her mother when she was alive). Growing into a young woman (Patient: 23's Kika Magalhaes), Francisca venture out in search of contact to quell her loneliness, luring others back to the house seemingly without the intention of killing them but doing so when they are suitably unnerved enough by her oblivious admission of killing her father. Francisca unwittingly sows the seeds of her own destruction when she goes to extreme (well not for her) measures to create a family. A study of loneliness masquerading as an arty "torture porn" film that cuts away from the meat of the scenes in more ways than one, The Eyes of My Mother's flatline tone may put viewers off more so than any of the onscreen unpleasantness. It would be very easy to simply dismiss the film as pretentious but it really just makes hash of an interesting premise even as it tries to visualize it through the narrow perspective of its main character. Francisca forms warped ideas of family, love, and sex based on the lessons (ultimately cut short) of her mother and the estrangement of her father (which may have preceded his grief), isolated by her family's outsider status as immigrants, their awkwardness with the English language, and her own awkwardness when attempting to bond with strangers. Ones appreciation of the film's monochrome cinematography of Andrew Wyeth-like vistas soon wears and boredom sets in even as the film moves towards more intense and hysterical territory. The end result is too self-satisfied to entertain gorehounds (who are really not the target audience) or arthouse horror fans.

Video

Photographed with the Red Epic Dragon camera, the monochrome image looks spectacular in Magnet's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen transfer, not razor sharp but retaining a degree of softness appropriate to the pastoral American Gothic setting.

Audio

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track makes conservative use of the surrounds. English dialogue can be accompanied by optional SDH subtitles while English subtitles for the Portuguese dialogue is burned into image.

Extras

The disc's Interview with director Nicolas Pesce (13:34) finds the filmmaker attributing inspiration for the film not as an arty take on torture porn but the sixties American Gothic films like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (although name-checking Vincent Price seems more like random Eli Roth-esque pandering, and his assumption that people walked out early due to the film's intensity does not take into account the likely boredom. The disc also includes Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (3:14) and previews for other films.

Overall

Too self-satisfied to entertain gorehounds (who are really not the target audience) or arthouse horror fans, The Eyes of My Mother is study of loneliness masquerading as an arty "torture porn" film that makes hash of an interesting premise.

 


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