Like an intoxicating fever dream, writer/director Nicolas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother is unlike any film I’ve seen in quite some time, akin to a nightmare you just can’t quite shake off. Breathtakingly shot in black and white, Pesce’s unsettling character study is as heartbreaking as it is depraved, making for an experience that will stay with you long after its gut-wrenching finale.

The Eyes of My Mother starts off innocently enough, introducing a young Francisca (Olivia Bond) as she picks flowers and roams the remote farm she shares with her mother (Diana Agostini) and father (Paul Nazak). There’s a gentleness to Francisca’s world, where she picks flowers and observes nature, but there’s also a bluntness to it as well, as her mother is a former veterinarian who teaches her daughter some of her methods (including decapitating a cow), making for an interesting juxtaposition right from the start.

One day while her father is away, Francisca and her mother are met by a stranger (Will Brill) who has a sinister plan in mind for the matriarch. And when Francisca’s dad returns home, he finds the maniacal visitor doing some unspeakable things to his wife, prompting him to take the mysterious man hostage and chain him up inside their barn.

And that’s when we begin to see Francisca’s sweet demeanor chip away, while the blossoming sociopath inside of her takes over.

Pesce frames his directorial debut into chapters (“Mother,” “Father,” and “Family”), giving us a distinct idea of the three phases of Francisca’s life as we see her transition into a stunning and alluring woman (Kika Magalhaes) who wants nothing more than to find someone she can share her time with. Being isolated away from most of the world on her farm has made her yearn for any kind of human connection, and we see, over time, how those yearnings play out in deadly ways, making for an intimate and unforgettable examination of this woman’s remote world.

With Pesce and cinematographer Zach Kuperstein’s decision to shoot The Eyes of My Mother in black and white, the film has an ethereal and timeless look to the point where it’s almost too beautiful to be about someone as deranged as Francisca. Magalhaes is breathtaking in her role, too, a haunting mix of doe-eyed innocence and danger that reminds me of a young Felissa Rose in Sleepaway Camp or even Jessica Harper from Suspiria. Magalhaes gives a lovely and complicated performance that is among the best acting work I’ve seen this year.

The Eyes of My Mother is a stunning debut feature from Pesce and one of the most unforgettable films I’ve seen in 2016. A hauntingly provocative slice of Gothic cinema that sticks with you long after it ends, the film brims with a palpable sense of dread and unease from start to finish. To me, The Eyes of My Mother is a must-see effort for any horror fan out there who likes to dig a little deeper with their genre fare, as it rattled my psyche in ways I didn’t think were still possible.

Movie Score: 4.5/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.