Written and directed by Nicholas Pesce, The Eyes Of My Mother takes place almost entirely at a remote farm. Here we meet a young girl named Francisca (Olivia Bond) who lives there with her mother (Diana Agostini), a former surgeon in her native Portugal, and father (Paul Nazak). One day when her father is away at work, a strange man named Charlie (Will Brill) approaches Francisca. Her mother quickly rushes over to see what's going on, understandably suspicious. She tries to send him on his way but he insists that she let him in to use the bathroom. The mother obliges but this proves to be the mistake she knew it was all along. A few minutes later the father has come home but the mother has been brutally murdered in the bathroom.
Francisca grows up (and is then played by Kika Magalhaes) and as her father gets older she tends to him as best she can. She also tends to Charlie, who she's been keeping chained up in the barn for all these years. When her father passes away, she eventually kills Charlie and from here, basically goes further off the deep end. It's clear that she wants ‘something' more out of life. She picks up another woman at a dive bar and takes her back to her house but it doesn't go well. Soon enough, her loneliness causes her to take even more extreme measures.
The Eyes Of My Mother has some interesting ideas at play but it sure does leave a whole lot of its story as vague and open ended. We never find out how or why this family lives where they do, why the mother, once a surgeon, is now a housewife intent on showing her daughter how to slice open cow's eyes. We don't know if Francisca goes to school or not or what it is that the father does when he's away at work all the time. We get no background information on Charlie and really, the characters that populate the film just sort of seem to exist in a void. This makes it hard for us to really relate to Francisca. At times we should be sympathetic to her plight. After all, she witnessed the murder of her own mother at a very young and impressionable age. Unfortunately the lack of depth to her character means we don't get this, instead we just see her as a very damaged individual with a penchant for cruelty.
At seventy-six minutes in length the movie feels about ten to fifteen minutes too long. The movie is padded by long takes, some of which are artistically impressive and beautiful to look at but add nothing more than a bit of visual splendor to the film. The pacing here is erratic. The look of the film is interesting, however. The black and white presentation does suit the gloomy mood of the storyline very well and the minimalist sound design that is employed throughout effectively complements the remote location of the farm. The farm house and the barn used throughout the movie look appropriately rural and provide a good backdrop of Pesce's story to unfold over.
Additionally the movie features some pretty solid performances. There's not a lot of dialogue here so much of what the performers communicate to the viewers is done through body language. Diana Agostini is fine as the mysterious mother, though her part in the film is quick as she's taken out early on. Paul Nazak gets a bit more screen time as Francisca's dad. He never really speaks in the film but carries about him a completely believable air of defeat, the type befitting someone who has suffered what he has been put through. Olivia Bond is quite good as young Francisca and Kika Magalhaes very good as the older variation. Magalhaes plays the part in roughly eighty percent of the movie so it's more her show than anybody else's. She's petite, pretty and a little quirky looking and that makes her right for the part. Throw in Will Brill as the clichéd but still creepy serial killer type and the cast all score solid marks here.
The Eyes Of My Mother arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. Shot digitally the black and white image is just as pristine as you'd expect it to be. Contrast is good and detail is typically very strong here. The image shows no obvious compression artifacts nor does it suffer from any overzealous sharpening. There isn't as much depth to the picture as you might want in some shots, but that looks to have more to do with the photography than the transfer itself. All in all, this is a nicely detailed picture free of any problems. It's clean, very clear and it suits the dark atmosphere of the story very well.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, though it's worth noting that the portions of the film spoken in Portuguese have forced yellow subtitles that pop up automatically to translate. The surround mix on the disc is strong, with plenty of rear channel activity during a few of the film's busier scenes helping to create mood and tension. Dialogue is clean, clear and easily discernable. This isn't a particularly bombastic track, it's not that kind of movie, but the sound design here works really well. Optional English closed captioning is provided.
The main extra on the disc is a thirteen minute video interview with director Nicholas Pesce in which he speaks about some of the artistic choices he made in the film, the story elements that are brought to together in the picture and working with the cast and crew.
Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, trailers for a few other Magnolia properties, menus and chapter selection. The Blu-ray case comes housed in a slick cardboard slipcover.
Despite some problems in the story and character development departments, The Eyes Of My Mother is an interesting movie worth checking out if you're a horror fan with a taste for the weird and artsy. The movie doesn't go over the top in the gore department (though it is fairly graphic) and instead relies on atmosphere and solid performances. This makes it easy enough to overlook its flaws, though it's tough to say if it is a movie that will have a lot of replay value. Magnolia's Blu-ray looks and sounds great but is light on extras. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.