Fantastic Fest 2010: Julia’s Eyes
Dir. Guillem Morales
Mature, efficient thrillers are difficult to come by these days, but you can trust Guillermo del Toro to produce them. Beneath its apparent high-concept premise, Julia’s Eyes is a fairly straightforward, though effective, cat-and-mouse scenario. The film follows Julia (Belén Rueda), a woman with a degenerative eye disorder, as she attempts to uncover the mystery of her blind twin sister’s alleged suicide. And, as the mystery unfolds before her, the stress of the chase leads to attacks that speed up her ocular degeneration.
The mounting claustrophobia and tense action couldn’t be nearly as successful if the movie wasn’t rooted in interesting, equally compelling relationships. Julia’s connections to both her husband (Lluís Homar) and her deceased sister are complex and believable, and both relationships end up acting as serious motivation for Rueda’s Julia. As Julia’s eyesight deteriorates, her relationships fall to the wayside. She moves insularly, she fights paranoia, and as she does so do we. If this film shines in one area, it is in effective in cruelly putting us in Julia’s shoes.
Once all of the groundwork is laid and the exposition begins, the film’s footing falters ever so slightly. The film’s baddie, played by Pablo Derqui, is a conceptually interesting villain who spends far too much time defending his actions and explaining his intentions. That said, credit is due for his participation in some incredibly tense scenes. His on-screen chemistry with Julia, terrifying though it may be, is evident. Director Guillem Morales also knows how to use dementia-addled old people to their greatest potential, and even twists the formula satisfyingly, but let’s not forget that they are a well-worn trope. Julia’s Eyes doesn’t upend a genre, nor does it try to. It simply aims to be an invigorating genre exercise, and in this it succeeds.