HOFF 2011: JULIA'S EYES Review

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
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Seldom has a film with as many impressive moments as the Guillermo Del Toro produced, Guillem Morales directed Julia's Eyes struggled so mightily to link them together in any sort of meaningful way. Designed as an atmospheric throwback to the giallo era Morales demonstrates all the right tonal moves and the ability to craft an effective set piece but the film is ultimately hobbled - and hobbled severely - by characters who just don't behave in any sort of believable way.

We begin with Sara, a beautiful woman but for the cloud covering her eyes. Stricken with a degenerative eye disorder she has gone blind and left to struggle through life alone. Except she's not. A figure lurks in the shadows of her house, one taunting her with silence, one who drives her to an assisted suicide by hanging to simply escape his presence. At that exact instant Sara's twin sister Julia - identical but for the color of her hair - falls to the ground clutching at her throat, obviously feeling a sympathetic pain for her sister.

And so we meet the woman who will carry us through the story, Julia arriving at Sara's home the next day to check on her intuition - to learn if everything is okay with the sister she has been estranged from for the past six months. What Julia finds is her sister hanging from a beam in the basement. And convinced that things are not what they seem Julia sets out to learn the truth, and if the stress of the search triggers the onset of the eye illness she shares with her sister then so be it.

And here is where we hit the first of the film's significant problems. It is one of motivation. Why is Julia so convinced that her sister was killed as opposed to committing suicide? Was there some clue left behind? Reports of a strange person nearby? No, everything seems fine. Julia rushes headlong to throw her own health away simply because a CD was playing on the stereo when Sara died. That's it. Which is hardly the sort of thing you would expect or willingly accept as the trigger event for a woman to throw away her own vision, lie repeatedly to her husband, and rush off on a quest to meet everyone who ever knew Sara.

And it kind of gets worse from there where Julia's behavior is concerned. Why would she choose to stay in the house where her sister was killed? Why would she choose to stay there after her husband was apparently killed in the same place? Why would she choose to stay after she was attacked there herself? It's a plot necessity, basically, but one that makes absolutely ZERO sense when it comes to how an actual person would behave in this sort of circumstance and Julia's baseless obsessions and refusal to even take the basic precautions that her obsessions should force upon her make her impossible to empathize with and care about on any more than the most cursory level. Not helping things at all are the repeated assertions that the killer - who is telegraphed fairly early - is presented as somehow 'invisible' and omnipresent though he clearly is not. Physics went out the window along with logic, unfortunately.

That said, Morales has a definite way with mood and style and taken as individual scenes Julia's Eyes has quite a lot to offer. Though the overall narrative doesn't work well at all the individual moments certainly do. Morales is clearly a skilled technician but next time he needs badly to focus more on the script.
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