Morality can have its grey areas. However, if we’ve never been raised to understand the difference between right and wrong, how would that effect your life, your decision making? That idea haunts The Eyes of My Mother, the directorial debut of Nicolas Pesce.
The film’s protagonist is Francisca (Kika Magalhaes), a young, happy, woman who lives out her days on her deceased parent’s secluded farm. Shot in stark black and white, Pesce shows us three distinct chapters in her life, the first of which lays down the groundwork for her existence. Her mother has been murdered and her father keeps her killer locked in their barn. With no other friends to call her own, Francisca dubs the criminal, ‘her best friend.’ Taken this into account, it’s no wonder Francisca’s moral compass is fractured.
There’s a frailty and naivety to Francisca which is extenuated by Magalhaes’ performance. Francisca will go on to do terrible things, but, stuck in a permanent childhood, she does them with wide-eyed innocence. Bathing her father’s corpse and digging up her mother’s for advice, she cries the tears of a lost child. Even attempting to understand her own sexuality leads to unwanted bloodshed before an epiphany of what she really wants: not to be alone. It would be heartbreaking if it wasn’t so troubling.
More arthouse than horror, The Eyes of My Mother has a slow burn to it. Obviously, Pesce’s film has moments of violence, but we often see just the aftermath; the director cutting away only to return when there’s cleaning to be done. It gives the scenes a sense that Francisca is burying her deeds in her own memories. And whilst the structure of the film never lets us in on what’s going on behind Francisca’s own eyes, some scenes will make an indelible impression on the audience’s.