Coming from the Sundance favorite, Borderline Films, is Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut, The Eyes of My Mother, which gathered even more attention than the other Borderline production playing at the festival this year, Antonio Campos’ Christine. While most walked away disappointed by Christine, rapturous praise was met for Pesce’s debut, as many compared to the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and 2008’s Martyrs. After hitting the ground back in 2008 with Afterschool, Borderline Films has kept their initial brand of setting out to explore the ups and downs of the tortured individuals that have branded the studio’s catalogue over the years. Pesce takes what’s certainly the most literal approach with his film, as he attempts to show Francisca’s (Olivia Bond) decline into becoming a psychopathic killer.
Opening up the film with Francisca as a young girl, we witness a sociopathic man enter the lives of her and her mother. The man comes insides to use the bathroom and quickly takes advantages of the mother’s generosity and pulls a gun on the two as he forcefully asks the mother to take him to the bathroom. It’s here when the dreadful drone soundtrack begins to take effect in an attempt to help build an atmosphere to the horrific events taking place onscreen.
One would think that a man coming into a house and pulling a gun on a mother and her young daughter would be, at the very least, effective, but that’s surely not the case here. With a monochromatic lens that’s trying to emulate the desolate imagery of Béla Tarr, there’s something so uncomfortable about The Eyes of My Mother, but not in the way that Pesce intends to throw off his viewers. Juxtaposing a drone soundtrack up against that type of cinematography as a man, who remains shackled within a bar, gets tortured surely isn’t a combination that would work well together, yet Pesce certainly fills his 77-minute debut with more than you ever could have asked for in a film.
As Francisca’s behavior grows even more radical, the amount logic going into the The Eyes of My Mother depletes at the same rate. For a film that is entirely concentrated on delving into the most devious aspects of the human nature, it’s shocking how inept Pesce is at making a logical explanation for Francisca’s motivations for becoming this woman who will kill without hesitation just about everyone who crosses her path.
Just about every great film following a mass murderer is able to lay the motives of the killer, but with The Eyes of My Mother, Pesce fails ever to present a reason why Francisca is going around stabbing everyone she comes across. When a film sets out to be this intimate of a character portrait and fails even to pinpoint what the main character’s motives are; it should go without saying that The Eyes of My Mother is an absolute failure. Pesce takes the brand that Borderline Films have built up for themselves and goes in the wrong direction in every single possible way.
The Eyes of My Mother screened as part of the Fantasia Film Festival. More information about the festival can be found here.