US | 2016 | Directed by Nicolas Pesce
Logline: A young girl grows into a young woman, on an isolated farm, plagued by tragedy, and beset with dark desires.
A truck driver on a lonely stretch of country road is forced to stop. A badly injured and chained woman has laid herself on the road. The driver attends to her. A young girl, Francisca (Kika Magahaes), smells flowers with her mother (Diana Agostini), in the field beside their farm home. A strange man, Charlie (Will Brill), is at their property and wants to use their bathroom, but he has a very different agenda. Francisca’s father (Paul Nazak) arrives home and deals with the situation at hand. Francisca takes it upon herself to attend to the aftermath of her father’s actions. This will become her quiet obsession.
Unlike any movie I have seen in many, many moons, The Eyes of My Mother resonates, reverberates, undulates, and permeates long after the final floating image fades. It is a perverse creature, a kind of love letter to David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter. It is a fable cut from the darkest cloth, a grotesque dream imbued with the aesthetics of a beautiful nightmare, a wholly original American Gothic tale.
Nicolas Pesce’s screenplay unfolds as if adapted from some strange lost novel, something Mervyn Peake might have written if he’d collaborated with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s a movie that feels literary, but is purely, unmistakably cinematic. It exists in the present, but is shrouded in elements that give it a distinct retro atmosphere; Prohibition era, the 1950s, and the 1960s. The widescreen monochrome cinematography, courtesy of Zach Kuperstein, is stunning, and Pesce’s mise-en-scene is a joy to behold.
What infuses the narrative with much of its elegance is what Pesce chooses not to show. Much of the horror and violence occurs off-screen, or is only glimpsed. Instead it is the consequence, the aftermath, that Pesce lingers on, and this heightens the movie’s peculiar, sensual sensibility. The black and white palette further distances the viewer, yet, with the superb use of sound and sparse, brooding use of a mostly electronic score, and very particular sourced songs, the viewer is drawn deeper into Francisca’s unhinged world, hypnotised by her delusional perspective.
Yet, despite the controlled nature of the movie, there is something very unsettling about what Francisca does. There is a disturbing realism to her behaviour. In her own, psychotic world, she is doing everything right, even if she cries for her mother. Herein lies the movie’s tenebrous essence.
The casting and performances are outstanding; Kika Magahaes is compelling, her svelte figure and fragility the perfect contrast to her cold “Asami”-esque indifference, especially apparent in the scene with Kimiko (Clara Wong). Will Brill and Diana Agostini are also excellent int their early scenes.
Like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Eyes of My Mother is slow-burn and surreal, a desolate art horror piece, superbly designed and executed. An acquired taste that rewards like an overproof, rare, aged bourbon. See it on the biggest screen you can find.