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The Eyes of My Mother 2016

The Eyes of My Mother

The Eyes of My Mother

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A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.

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About The Eyes of My Mother 💬

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.


Q: The film is obviously super dark and disturbing in a way that really stays with you. But there's a lot of vulnerability to Francisca as well. I'm curious to hear about your original conception for the character and how it grew through your collaboration with Kika (Magalhaes).

Nicolas Pesce: The starting place of the character is, you know, you hear these stories on the news about these people that have done horrible things - I always use Jeffrey Dahmer as my example. He killed and ate seventeen people in the 90s. When you hear something like that, that sounds like such a crazy statement. But the majority of someone like that's life wasn't spent killing and eating people - the horrifying thing that they've done, and maybe have become famous for, is actually a very small piece of what their life looks like. Thinking about what the rest of that life looks like when they're not doing those things is just as scary and fascinating - if not more - than when they're doing the horrifying things.

It doesn't seem like it, but in my movie, there's actually no onscreen violence. The most violent thing you see on camera is the little girl stitching [Charlie] up. And that's something that like ninety percent of people have experienced. Francisca's character became about what does Francisca's life look like between all these traumatic moments? What does life look like for someone who's just trying to make sense of something that's horrible around them? When I would talk to Kika about it, the main question was, how do you make someone and make them sympathetic to the audience? The whole process of the movie was kind of trying to get the audience into a place where, they wouldn't do what Francisca would do, but they would understand why she's doing it. And if you walk out of the movie sympathizing with her, then I got you sympathizing with the killer! It's about the important emotional moments in this girl's life - and whether it's about violence or just emotional trauma, it's really about a girl who's lonely seeking a way to fix it.

The violence comes out of a lot of misguided moments in her youth and her taking what should have been lessons in the wrong way, or not having parental support to guide her. Francisca can't be to blame for everything that happened to her. But she is responsible for the things that she does do and she feels bad. She isn't a stone-cold killer and she doesn't kill for pleasure per se - she might find pleasure in it after the fact, but she kills Charlie because he tries to leave: it's like a little girl having a temper tantrum. She really is a little girl who can't process the full spectrum of her adult emotions. She has these desires like sex, and anger, and violence and they're confusing to her and she's trying to distract herself from them and hold them inside. Kika and I didn't really talk about the anger or the violence, but rather that everything she does is out of love and she always thinks that she's helping someone.

Q: Francisca's emotional benchmarks you mention are delineated by the chaptered structure of the film. This is a deliberately slow-paced movie - in a good way! But the chapters keep time moving quickly forwards. Was that the plan for the beginning? It could have taken a very different form, but you've opted for showing rather than telling or explaining.

Nicolas Pesce: Yeah well, I'm sure many filmmakers say, my favorite movies are from the '70s and there's just a slower, quieter pace to those movies. When movies cut less, they make you think more and when you can have this time to sit with a scene and you're not so focused on ''wait, what's going on? Who is that? What are they talking about?'' You have time to kind of stew in what I was talking about before - the mood and the atmosphere. And if you can control and manipulate people's experience of the mood and the atmosphere, that's just as effective as moving people emotionally with the story. I always used to joke that all you need to do to get away with a 70's style movie is make it half the length, which is accidentally what we did.

I don't like movies that explain things to me, because I want it to feel like a puzzle sometimes, that's how I stay engaged. I don't want to be following along a story that someone's laying out for me, I want to reach into someone's life and pull from everything that surrounds them. There's a whole emotional exploration I want you to have while you're sitting and watching a young girl wash her mother's blood off the bathroom floor. There are no words that any little girl could say that would make you think the same thing as you would just watching her doing it and listening to the sound of the monotonous, repetitive scrubbing. I think that ultimately, the scariest parts of this movie are what happens in the audience's head, not what happens on screen. The more you start to think about it and internalize what's going on, the worse and worse it gets.


Q: There's very little dialogue in the film: your character is intensely psychological and a lot is communicated with looks and gestures. Did that come across on the page or did Francisca come to life on set?

Kika Magalhães: Because she's so mentally... I don't even know the word for her but she's not a very talkative person. She grew up isolated from the world. She doesn't know how to communicate with words but she's so mentally alive. I think that the way that she expresses herself is a lot through her eyes. That was a big challenge for me because I'm so different: I love talking and I'm always laughing and smiling and she’s totally the opposite.

But life is funny sometimes and when I first got the script I was not in a very good place in my life and I kind of was a little bit isolated from the world as well. I don't know why that happened, but I got the script at the perfect time. I'm obviously not Francisca - and thank god - but at the time I got the script I was living a little bit like her - isolated and not talking that much. So I kind of used what I was going through in my life to prepare for the role.

Q: The character goes into some pretty dark places but you manage to show a lot of vulnerability as well and make her sympathetic. For example, that scene when she's crying with her father in the bathtub: it's both sinister and sweet.

Kika Magalhães: Well I think at the end of the day, Francisca can be a horrible person, but she's human and I don't really see her as a horrible person, I see her as a really loving person. She commits some terrible acts but even those are all done out of love. I think Francisca is a good example of how we judge others; we spend our lives judging people who commit crimes and do bad things, but they might be victims. Everything Francisca does, she does because something terrible happened to her when she was a little girl. She's just searching for love. She is very human and I think that's the beauty of this movie - even though it's a horrifying story it could be real.

Q: Right, well the final chapter, for example, is a perfect example of that. Stealing a baby and locking up its mother might be the most horrific thing she does, but also the most sympathetic.

Kika Magalhães: Oh, yeah. That's the proof right there. She just did a horrible thing to Lucy [the mother] but she did it only because what she wanted was to have something to love and to be loved back. Also, you mentioned the scene with her in the bathtub with her father. The father didn't give her any love. I remember one day I was on set and I was watching the actress who plays little Francisca in a scene with the father and I wanted to cry because it's like how could the father treat her like that? He's totally ignoring her. Of course, someone growing up like that, something is going to go wrong for her.

The Eyes of My Mother Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Nicolas Pesce

Writing Credits

Nicolas Pesce


Kika Magalhães

Will Brill

Paul Nazak

Flora Diaz

Clara Wong

Diana Agostini

Joey Curtis-Green

Olivia Bond

Music by

Ariel Loh

Cinematography by

Zach Kuperstein

Genres: Drama, Horror

Country: United States

The Eyes of My Mother Official Trailer

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