There’s something about eyes isn’t there? They may be windows to your soul, but when something sharp is in close proximity to them it’s freakout time as Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel understood when they shot the infamous eyeball slicing scene in Un Chien Andalou (1929).
Eyes are a big part of Nicolas Pesce’s first film as director, The Eyes of My Mother. Little Francisca (Olivia Bond) is growing up on a farm in the homeland of deranged psycho killers, yes America’s Midwest farmlands. Francisca’s mum (Diana Agostini) was an eye surgeon back in Portugal and passes down her fascination with our twin orbs on to her daughter by dissecting the eye of a cow in the kitchen.
But then trouble rolls up and mum gets chopped up in the bath by Charlie (Will Brill) a serial killing, but tidy commercial salesmen. Naturally when dad (Paul Nazak) gets home he’s a bit peeved, so little Francisca ends up with a new playmate chained up in the barn and she’s ready to play with the family first aid kit and some surgical twine.
So fast forward a few years and grown up Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) is keeping house for long dead dad and the serial killer playmate is still chained up in the barn, but satisfying her own womanly needs takes just a bit more than a casual Country and Western bar pick up. It does however fill her freezer. Things get a lot more complicated for Francisca when she needs to replace her chained up pal and hitches a ride with a young mum and baby.
The Eyes of My Mother is a really interesting movie that has more of a European art house vibe than the kind of film that we have come to expect to emerge from the from the backwoods interior of the USA. The cinematography is quite stunning, the film is shot in a very crisp bright monochrome, more reminiscent of 1950s horror movies that the warmer black and white tones of earlier Hollywood productions. Kika Magalhaes as Francisca is strangely unearthly, a European alien in the land of big skies and monster truck rigs, but Francisca’s Portuguese heritage is an important touchstone in the film. She talks to her mother in Portuguese (which is subtitled in yellow, another throwback to the 1950s) and dances to Fado music in front of the gramophone, but then the imagery and the landscape of forests, farmland and Country and Western bars is very much of the more familiar cinematic language (well to UK and American audiences) of the American Southern Gothic. Pesce adds to this big nods towards Sir Alfred’s Psycho (1960), Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and the rural American horror movie genre in general to create a uniquely chilling Euro/American hybrid horror.
A strangely beautiful take on the American Gothic shot with European art house sensitivities I give The Eyes of My Mother a 666/666
The Eyes of My Mother is in UK cinemas 24 March 2017 from For listings visit Park Circus