The Eyes of My Mother trailer

It’s easy for smaller films to slip through the cracks at Sundance, drowned out by scandalized headlines for oddballs like Swiss Army Man and deafening buzz for multimillion-dollar acquisitions like The Birth of a Nation and Manchester by the Sea. But The Eyes of My Mother has refused to fade into obscurity, despite hailing from a first-time feature filmmaker (Nicolas Pesce) and centering on a mostly unknown cast, and there’s an excellent reason for it: it’s really freakin’ creepy.

The story centers around Francisca, whose idyllic if sheltered childhood is interrupted by a horrific act of violence. Except that the family’s reaction to said incident isn’t quite what you’d expect. As Francisca grows up into an isolated young woman (played by Kika Magalhaes), she develops a genuinely twisted way of connecting to the world. Watch the Eyes of My Mother trailer below.

The Eyes of My Mother Trailer

The Eyes of My Mother was not one of my favorites at Sundance. The entire experience is viscerally uncomfortable and spiritually ugly (though visually beautiful, thanks to the striking black-and-white cinematography by Zach Kuperstein), and I came close to walking out several times. But love it or hate it, it’s definitely something special. The Eyes of My Mother feels like a nightmare you can’t wake up from, or maybe a traumatic memory you can’t forget. As Vulture put it, The Eyes of My Mother is a bit like “what might have happened if Michelangelo Antonioni and Shirley Jackson had collaborated on a torture porn flick.”

It’s more lyrical than your typical horror movie, more interested in constructing a certain (skin-crawling) vibe than in scaring you silly. But it lingers longer, too. If you’ve got a taste for horror and a craving for something unusual — not to mention the stomach for some pretty gnarly stuff — this is one worth putting on your radar. I can’t say I’d ever want to see it again, or even that I’m especially glad I saw it, but I sure am glad it exists.

The Eyes of My Mother is in theaters and on demand December 2.

In their secluded farmhouse, a mother, formerly a surgeon in Portugal, teaches her daughter, Francisca, to understand anatomy and be unfazed by death. One afternoon, a mysterious visitor horrifyingly shatters the idyll of Francisca’s family life, deeply traumatizing the young girl, but also awakening some unique curiosities. Though she clings to her increasingly reticent father, Francisca’s loneliness and scarred nature converge years later when her longing to connect with the world around her takes on a distinctly dark form.

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