julia’s eyes | my movie review

Posted on March 26, 2013

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eyes

More often than not European horror movies put Hollywood to shame. It’s a fact that is backed up by the simple evidence of Hollywood feeling a need to remake, in English, any successful foreign movie with a popular celebrity [I won’t call them actors as so many of them simply can’t] and in the process drain the story of any life and creativity. Vanilla Sky, The Grudge, City of Angels, Godzilla and more recently Let Me In. These are only a few that spring to mind. Hollywood is a machine that churns out remakes and sequels and prequels and bog standard fare for profit and has very little to do with originality. For the most part, if you want true originality, you have to look to foreign shores.

Los ojos de Julia, or Julia’s Eyes to give it it’s English title, is a very effective, absorbing Spanish psychological thriller with elements of horror from Guillem Morales whose only other feature movie was 2004’s The Uninvited Guest – which I have yet to see. While Julia’s Eyes brings nothing groundbreakingly new and alternative to the table, it does what it does rather effectively.

Belén Rueda, who we know as the mother from the wonderfully spooky The Orphanage, plays Julia. Julia has a disease which means that her eyesight is slowly degenerating,and exacerbated by stress. She also has a twin sister [also played by Rueda] who suffered from the same ocular disease and whom, it seems, has committed suicide. The police think it was linked to the stress of her losing her eyesight, but Julia is determined to prove that her sister’s death was anything of the sort, and that there is in fact a more disturbing reason for her untimely death.

It’s not so much the story within Julia’s Eyes that entertains, but the manner in which it is told. There are many very interesting uses of filters and blurring and the camera switches between the point of view of different characters, successfully adding dramatic effect. This all revolves around the idea of sight and vision and they are used very effectively, enabling the viewer to experience to a degree the confusion and disorientation that comes with suddenly not being able to see properly. I found myself very often squinting at obscured areas of the screen trying to make out what it was we were supposed to be seeing – or not seeing as the case may be. Notably the faces of many of the characters are not revealed for long periods, throwing us off slightly as we’re usually able to see the expressions and lip movements of anyone on screen, very often only getting to see the back of someone’s head as they are talking. The use of light and space is genuinely unnerving. The story becomes less gripping at places and the reveal is nothing new that we haven’t seen dozens of times before – but it’s the journey getting there that thrills.

The movie is produced by Guillermo del Toro, the genius behind the wonderful adult fairytale that is Pan’s Labyrinth and the criminally unwatched ghost story, The Devil’s Backbone. Del Toro delivers a real world in which we are able to experience the distress of the lead character as her eyesight slowly fades.

There’s plenty of edge of your seat moments and hide behind a cushion moments, a nice spread of realistic action, buckets of emotional tension held together tidily with the romance between Julia and her husband Isaac [Lluís Homar]. All of these elements are believable and effective in that we can relate to them in a very real sense through our own human strength and emotion, firing up our own personal sense of self-preservation.

 Though not the tightest story ever told, there’s no denying it’s masterfully made. Go see it – but make sure all your lights are turned off.

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