For those of you who've ever suffered from poor eyesight, either long or short term, I'll bet that losing your sight altogether has at least fleetingly crossed your mind. And if it has, then Julia's Eyes
is absolutely terrifying. It's far from a perfect movie, but where it counts Guillem Morales creates a truly horrible sense of helplessness, especially in the film's agonising final third.
Julia suffers from a degenerative eye disease that will leave her blind if she doesn't receive a donor transplant soon. When her sister Sara, also blind from the same disease, commits suicide under mysterious circumstances, Julia becomes obsessed with a strange shadowy figure she believes to be involved. Amidst sceptical loved ones and disbelieving police, she battles to save her own sight and uncover the truth behind Sara's untimely death.
Released under the 'Guillermo Del Toro presents' banner, Julia's Eyes follows in the footsteps of The Orphanage
as a slick and glossy Spanish scare-fest that mostly eschews violence for well-timed jumps and a creepily tense atmosphere. Though not a ghost story per se, the thrills are very much of that variety. In fact, an over-reliance on knee-jerk jumps occasionally threatens to spoil things. Belén Rueda (The Orphanage, The Sea Inside
) as both Sara and Julia is tenacious and, whilst under considerable pressure and occasionally frustrating with some obtuse decisions, manages to convince in the lead role. Lluis Homar is less successful as her husband and they make an odd couple to say the least. There's just a lack of that indefinable chemistry, that in the end stunts the impact fo their relationship.
Yet any grievances are set aside once the final third of the movie kicks in. Up to this point, it's an engaging but unremarkable psychological thriller. Instructed to keep her eyes bandaged at all costs by her doctor, Julia insists on returning home with the aid of a care worker visiting every day. Toying with her perception of events from behind the bandages, and examining paranoia and trust issues, Morales shoots the ensuing terror that visits Julia without showing anyone's face. With a camera that views characters waist-down and from behind, the result is a grimly claustrophobic, stylistic articulation of her inability to see. Morales deftly handles literal interpretations of blindness with more complex issues around what we notice and what we don't.
A subdued start makes way for a shiver-filled, extended finale that's cunningly staged and almost unbearably tense. Though not as well-structured or ultimately as moving as The Orphanage, Julia's Eyes
is a classy thriller that really hits a nerve.
The picture is pretty much faultless bar the odd minor pixilation, in dark scenes and during the 'loss of vision' swirling effects used to portray Julia's sight degeneration. Otherwise, detail is strong and the stark sound effects are conveyed well.
You won't be buying this disc for the extras...
There are four interviews, with Del Toro, Morales, Rueda and Homar but they're very brief (by which I mean a couple of minutes at best) fluff pieces that provide scant insight. Some B-roll footage gives some behind-the-scenes shots but there's no commentary. And that's your lot.
Julia's Eyes is out on DVD, Blu-ray and EST on 12th September through Optimum Home Entertainment.
Blu-Ray Tech specs: R/T: 117mins / Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 / Region: B / Colour/ Disc Type: Dual Layer/ Spanish Language/ English Subtitles/ HD Standard 1080p/ Stereo 2.0 LPCM / Catalogue number: OPTBD2030 / Cert: 15
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