Kika Magalhaes stars in a strikingly told tale of horror, written and directed by Nicolas Pesce.
"You're just like your mother!" Depending on your age and circumstances, that can be either complementary or derogatory. For Francisca, it's the story of her life.
Strikingly presented in black and white, The Eyes of My Mother (Os Olhos de Minha Mãe) follows Francisca from childhood to adulthood as she adapts to changing circumstances in her household. Told in quietly played, funereal tones, the style matches Francisca's personality.
Raised on a farm, with no interaction with others, young Francisca (Olivia Bond) is taught to be self-sufficient by her parents. One day a stranger appears, and a common act of neighborly kindness by Francisca's mother (Diana Agostini) leads to tragedy. When Francisca's father (Paul Nazak) arrives home, he commits an act of violent retribution that affects the rest of their lives.
The 'nature vs. nurture' debate has been ongoing for decades. Because Francisca remains at her parents' farm and lives in their house, and is otherwise entirely self-sufficient, the debate is settled: nature and nurture are intertwined tightly. Never attending school, never having friends her own age, never having relatives or friends visit, never having any nearby neighbors ... all these factors are an integral part of Francisca's personality.
As far as her nature is concerned, she is an only child and is completely influenced by her parents and by her experiences on the farm, watching and caring for the animals from birth to death. Her understanding of life is, therefore, both rudimentary and also comprehensive.
Francisca's father is not exactly a great communicator, to put it mildly, though that doesn't lessen the girl's deepening love for him as she grows into a young woman. Absent any other human relationships, she remains close to her mother after her death, unwilling -- or unable -- to let her go. Really, Francisca's beliefs about death are murky, but probably unique; she has to make sense of death on her own terms, which are vastly different than those of anyone else alive.
Kika Magalhaes portrays Francisca as a young woman, and hers is a startling performance. She is intensely shy and rarely speaks, as though she has difficulty finding and forming the words; her body language ranges from stiff and obviously timid to a kind of looping, comfortable gait while walking.
Making his film debut, Nicolas Pesce wrote and directed, and it is remarkable to see the sureness of his command. Certainly it can be acknowledged that there are a few holes in the plot, yet those points are secondary to the portrait of Francisca that is painted in a scant 76 minutes.
The Eyes of My Mother is a very impressive debut, mostly because Francsica is a full-bodied and achingly cracked personality. She is only doing the best she can, even if she doesn't fully comprehend the horrifying consequences of her twisted actions.
Via Magnet Releasing, the film opens in select theaters in the U.S. on Friday, December 2. It will also be available to watch on Demand, and via Amazon Video and iTunes.