Julia’s Eyes (15)
Driven by her desire to find out more about the suicide of Sara, her twin sister, Julia becomes obsessed with the case, increasingly convinced that a mysterious stranger holds the key to the puzzle.
Like Sara, Julia suffers from a degenerative eye condition. It can render her temporarily blind during moments of acute stress. As she probes further into Sara’s death, so she comes closer to losing her sight altogether.
There are quasi-Hitchcockian MacGuffins galore in Julia’s Eyes (aka Los ojos de Julia), not least a smattering of interested parties – neighbours, sons, daughters and Julia’s husband who may or may not have his own secrets where the dead sister is concerned – to throw punters off the trail.
Yet director Guillem Morales telegraphs such clues too obviously with the result that the villain is clumsily identified very early on. Still Julia’s Eyes remains a disturbing thriller, even if several fundamental aspects – like the deaths of some major characters – appear not to affect our heroine in any great way.
Morales keeps much of the action in shadow or a foggy, indistinct haze to represent Julia’s failing sight. In many ways this is a standard woman in peril flick that focuses on helplessness and control, always factors that lead to an atmosphere of creepiness and dread.
The film is seemingly inspired by a gallery of earlier pictures, from Peeping Tom and Wait Until Dark through to Misery, The Sixth Sense and The Others. It is overwhelmed by a mood of oppressive voyeurism that is not helped by an exploitative (and wholly unnecessary) shower scene involving several naked women.
The film pivots on the hysterical performance of Belén Rueda in the dual roles of Julia and Sara as she negotiates both her husband’s frustrations and the disbelief of the police. Crucially she fails to react plausibly to some mighty moments of shock and terror, hinting that the entire episode may be a figment of a fractured imagination.
A detective story that morphs into a serial killer chiller, Julia’s Eyes fails to provide answers to several key questions. Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, it aspires to follow in the wake of movies like Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage (also starring Rueda and produced by Del Toro) but never really comes close.