Thursday, 2 June 2011

FILM REVIEW: Julia's Eyes

And now a s delayed review of Julia’s Eyes – or more accurately – what was Guillermo Del Toro thinking! I think it’s wonderful that he helps pluck out burgeoning directors, to bring a gravitas and publicity to their films that immediately elevates them in the media (“Del Toro presents…”), but surely he must read the scripts for these projects first? I can only forgive a man of such a ridiculously hectic schedule for perhaps letting this one linger in the vaults of his mailbox. Because it really isn’t up to his standards.

Julia of the title is left devastated when her twin sister suddenly hangs herself. She was suffering from the same degenerative eye disease that Julia herself harbours, but hers progressed first and she was left blind, and – apparently – unable to continue with life without her sight. But Julia is suspicious. Why was her sister listening to her least favourite song when she died? Why did she not leave a note? Who is this boyfriend her friends speak of, and why did he not show up at the funeral? And who is the strange person watching her in the shadows… as she investigates the death, Julia has to fight not only her frustrated husband but also her flailing sight and increasing paranoia that comes when the darkness closes in.

Firstly, not a horror. Don’t care who billed it as one, it doesn’t even make you jump. Secondly, it’s not in anyway supernatural, nor does it ever portend to be in the various twists throughout the film. So other than sharing the same lead actress, don’t compare this in anyway to The Orphanage or you’ll just be heavily disappointed (unless The Orphanage wasn’t your thing in which case you’re nuts). It’s a full blown mystery thriller, and unlike anything Del Toro has really stamped his name on before. That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean - apart from those famous leading words at the beginning of the film - there is nothing Del Toro about Julia’s Eyes.

So let’s overlook that and get down to reviewing the film. For the most part it works well, and newish director Guillem Morales does an excellent job of playing on the scares and terror that would come from slowly losing your sight (there’s some horrible needle in eye moments as well I should warn you about) and not being fully aware of what else is in the room with you. Also really enjoyed the end scene where she takes away the only advantage The Killer has on her by putting them both in the pitch dark, and the way the Polaroid camera is the only form of light available – what then happens plays out like a comic book strip or a slow motion snapshot reel.

So yes, there is a Killer, and it’s pretty easy to call halfway through the film. What’s a relief though is the film is aware that the audience knows, so doesn’t leave it too much longer before they are revealed. Then there’s a brilliant sequence – my favourite of the film – where Julia, who is recovering from her eye transplant operation, can bear the stress no longer and takes off her bandages early, realising she can see and the operation is a success. But then when she finds her only source of help has been horribly murdered, she pretends to the Killer that she is still blind (and amazingly does not flinch or blink when Killer points a knife inches from her eyeball to test her). And it’s also very cleverly done when the Killer realises she’s been lying – every little detail counts.

From there it just becomes nonsensical and even cheesy at the end – guarantee the end scene will make you want to vomit (or laugh, as most people in the cinema did). One of the greatest bugbears is how we never find out the Killer’s motivation for any of their actions. There’s an angry spiel about “the fear of being ignored, the fear of nobody noticing you’re there” but there’s no origin to the pain, no backstory or insight into this crazy character that gives the climax of the film any resounding impact. And yet there is so much to decipher from it – something Morales (who co-wrote the script) cleared fails to capitalise on. I fear he was more interested in maintaining the relationships in the story, rather than actually focusing on individual characters.

Worth a gander on DVD if you’re looking for an entertaining romp, but don’t expect any new surprises – Julia’s Eyes reminded me of something Robin Williams would star in, if the Americans get their hands on a remake.

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