Julia's Eyes

Julia's Eyes


Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Julia's Eyes marks another occasion whereby Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro has provided a steady producer's hand on the tiller for an upcoming director in the horror/fantasy genre. Certainly a positive del Toro influence could be felt in the well-received 2007 ghost story The Orphanage, which he executive produced for debut director J.A Bayona. But has del Toro worked his magic again with Julia's Eyes, this time with relative newcomer director Guillem Morales?

The presence of actor Belén Rueda will be reassuringly familiar to Spanish-language horror fans. Rueda was a magnetic, luminous presence as Laura in The Orphanage, and here in Julia's Eyes tackles a very similar main role: a woman (actually two women, given twin sisters lie at the heart of this story) slowly realising she is becoming trapped in a nightmare.

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Julia's nightmare is twofold- she is slowly going blind due to a degenerative condition, which is aggravated by stress, and she is convinced that someone is stalking her. This stalker she believes was responsible for murdering her blind twin sister Sara (who shared the same medical ailment), though the police believe the death was was suicide and no traces of a break in or violence could be found. After she arrives at Sara's house to tend to her affairs following the funeral, a series of strange, haunting-type events occur around Julia, who despairs at her husband Isaac (Lluís Homar)'s refusal to believe her. As her eyesight beings to fail under the pressure, Julia finds herself in a race against time to uncover her sister's secrets and unmask the 'invisible man' - a man who mysteriously no one except her is able to sense.

The infliction of blindness on a character certainly offers up plenty of opportunities for a horror director, and the concept has been deployed before in films such as Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark and the little-seen Afraid Of the Dark. Morales and cinematographer Óscar Faura certainly aren't afraid to run full tilt with the concept, deploying all manner of audio/visual trickery and hinting at a supernatural hand in all of this. This is a stalker nightmare played out in small, shadowy and claustrophobic rooms and alleys, where Julia, eyesight failing, is at the mercy not just of her mystery predator but all manner of tables and wires which conspire to trip or obstruct her. Particular stylistic cinematographic choices further heighten the tension: the camera switches often to Julia's point of view which, as the film proceeds, grows increasingly foggy and narrowed.

As Julia's vision fails almost completely, so the camera begins to avoids directly showing the faces of characters she interacts with, raising doubts as to whether they are friend or foe and accentuating her vulnerability. Julia's final battle with her hunter is intermittently lit by the flash bulb from a camera. These are familiar tricks of the trade, but are mostly effectively done, and Rueda is never anything less than 100 per cent committed and convincing to help sell this.

Morales also constructs some effective set pieces. One of note occurs when Julia investigates the care centre where her sister was treated and encounters a group of blind women from Sara's care group. Having kept quiet and undetected after stumbling into their locker room, Julia suddenly finds herself surrounded by the milky-eyed group as they sense her presence and try to grab her. It's an eerie and unusual scene that builds gradually, with the jolt being delivered when one of the women suddenly senses the presence of Julia's stalker. Some of the other more effective moments are where Morales simply lets the camera linger on pockets of shadows in the corners of rooms for long stretches, letting our imaginations do the work.

Though his film is beautifully shot and well acted, Morales sadly lets things fall apart somewhat in the last third. Too many bizarre revelations (some of them laugh-out loud funny, which surely wasn't the intention), and a final underwhelming showdown that drags on too long, spoil somewhat a well-crafted exercise in genre and style.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2011
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A young woman who is slowly losing her sight fears she is being stalked as she investigates the death of her sister.
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Director: Guillem Morales

Writer: Guillem Morales, Oriol Paulo

Starring: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Pablo Derqui

Year: 2010

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted


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