With its slow, international film festival-style pacing and its exotic Portuguese star, you might assume that The Eyes of My Mother is a European production. Nope – this gothic chiller was made right here in the USA.
The film covers three chapters in the life of Francisca, a woman growing up on an upstate New York farm, who rather inexplicably gains her immigrant parents' Portuguese accent as she ages. (I'm being cheeky: Kika Magalhaes, a Portuguese native whom writer/director Pesce specifically developed the film around, plays Francisca as an adult; American actress Olivia Bond plays her as a child. I guess Pesce couldn't find a young Portuguese girl for the early bits.) After a shocking childhood trauma – the most disturbing scene in a movie consisting entirely of disturbing scenes – Francisca goes off the deep end and becomes a distaff Norman Bates, only a lot more sadistic and not nearly as interesting.
Without much plot, The Eyes of My Mother is essentially a character portrait. Yet the "Artfully Twisted Psycho Girl" trope feels so phony to me – she's someone you only see onscreen, never in real life. Lucky McKee tried the same thing with May back in 2002, and I didn't go for that either. Not everyone will feel this way, of course. I know people who like May. Those same people might like The Eyes of My Mother.
I would say that the movie was shot in sumptuous black and white, but in this day and age, with few filmmakers having access to b&w film stock, instead I must say that The Eyes of My Mother was shot digitally and then converted to sumptuous black and white. It does look great, and its sound design is bracing. The violence is muted and the gore is prettified by monochrome, yet there's still an ickiness that doesn't let up.
This is one of those films that will definitely connect with some people, while leaving others cold. For me it was mostly ponderous and repetitive, an atmospheric movie with nothing to say and nowhere to go.