The Eyes of My Mother (3 stars)

The Eyes of My Mother

Nicolas Pesce's directorial debut is a mannered yet impressive slice of American gothic

If Psycho's Norman Bates had a sister then she might be a lot like Francisca in The Eyes of My Mother. Traumatised by events in her childhood, lacking role models and living alone in rural America, Francisca responds to her circumstances in the only way she knows how – by killing in the most grisly fashion.

The striking feature debut of music video director Nicolas Pesce is a poised and meticulously controlled slice of American gothic that blends together a slew of influences from Hitchcock to Haneke via David Lynch and The Night of the Hunter. Shot in black and white, slow-burning, unapologetically idiosyncratic and refusing to provide easy answers to many questions, this enigmatic film is very much a mood piece. It is an arthouse coming-of-age drama cloaked in the gruesome conventions of a slasher film. The fact that a good deal of the killing, torture and dismemberment happen off screen in no way diminishes the unpleasantness of what happens.

Divided into three sections – Mother, Father and Family – the film specifies neither the location nor the time period of the story. Dialogue is kept to a minimum and Pesce pays considerable attention to the sound design and the soundtrack choices, including Portuguese fado star Amália Rodrigues.

Initially, the young Francisca (Olivia Bond) is seen with her protective mother as they wait for her father's return. The arrival of a creepy stranger and his subsequent confession that killing someone 'feels amazing' sets the tone for the adult Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) who seems to wander around in a wide-eyed trance, with no sense of right or wrong to regulate her actions. Pesce is clearly a talent to watch but The Eyes of My Mother is too mannered, eccentric and deliberately paced to entirely win you over.

Limited release from Fri 24 Mar.

The Eyes of My Mother

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 16min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Nicolas Pesce
  • Cast: Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill, Olivia Bond
  • UK release: 24 March 2017

Francisca (Magalhaes) is a young woman with no sense of right or wrong, who develops a taste for killing people. An arthouse coming-of-age drama cloaked in the conventions of a slasher film, it’s an impressive slice of American gothic but too mannered, eccentric and slow to entirely win you over.