What would you do if you knew you could kill and get away with it? Would you explore the sensation of what it’s like to take another life? This theme is explored in the film Eyes of My Mother. Think of it as this generation’s version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The movie provides something I’ve seen on few occasions in cinema. As a horror film, it doesn’t rely on standard jump scares, sounds, or extreme music. What the movie has done is find actors with unusual facial features and awkward body language. Their repugnance is what communicates the horror elements in this film. These are people you take one look at, and you just know something is off. But this is what makes the movie so unique; it serves as a reminder that people are the real monsters.
Francisca is a young girl who lives on an isolated farm with her parents in middle America. She loves to shadow her mother who use to be an eye surgeon in her native country, Portugal. Francisca watches as her mother surgically dissects the eyes of farm cows. One day, a mysterious visitor shows up and turns their world upside down. This stranger serves as the catalyst for Francisca’s obsession with dissection and death —unleashing her innate madness upon those who come in contact with her.
As Francisca grows older, she longs for companionship. She wants to meet someone who understands and accepts her insanity. Her childhood trauma has left her stuck: she’s a 10-year-old trapped in a woman’s body. Her actions and words are that of a juvenile. Being isolated from human contact means she has no friends and when her parents are gone, she can’t handle reality, so she uses violence as a coping mechanism. She doesn’t see it as a problem, but a means to an end.
Eventually, her loneliness ebbs when a child, Antonio, comes into her life for her to raise. What’s odd is the child doesn’t appear to inherit the same evil traits as Francisca and knows the difference between right and wrong. He’s more mature than his “mother” due to his propensity for goodness.
Francisca’s preoccupation with her mother is reminiscent of Norman Bates. She refuses to accept her mother is gone. In addition to Psycho, there are so many other homages to earlier horror films of the same sub-genre, and I think this movie tells that story in a subtle way.
And just like Norman Bates, Francisca doesn’t comprehend what it takes to build healthy interpersonal relationships. Her isolation is exacerbated by her childhood tragedy, and too much time alone has driven Francisca insane. You almost feel sorry for her. Actress Kika Magalhaes is perfect in this role, as she displays such beauty and such madness at the same time.
Director Nicolas Pesce’s aims to show that people are horrible. When children are raised in harsh environments they are observing, and adults should be mindful of this. The film is slow in some parts, but one of the great things is that a lot of the action happens off screen. The scenes transition quickly, and once you’ve figured out what happened, it’s too late for the victims. I loved letting my mind wander to fill in the gaps.
The conclusion leaves a question: is Francisca mentally stable enough raise a child with a decent moral compass? With a similarly tragic experience to his mother, is there hope for Antonio? or will he go down the same road as his mother? People are the real monsters, but are they born or are they created by circumstance?
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Valerie Complex is a freelance writer and professional nerd. As a lover of Japanese animation, and all things film, she is passionate about diversity across all entertainment mediums.