Julia’s Eyes Review

Directed by Guillem Morales and produced by Guillermo del Toro, Julia’s Eyes (Los ojos de Julia) is, in the words of the director himself “blind woman meets invisible man”. Belén Rueda’s Julia must come to terms with the recent suicide of her blind twin sister, Sara, while at the same time coping with the degeneration of her sight by the same congenital condition that beset both sisters. Suspicious of the circumstances surrounding Sara’s death and more specifically of the near invisible boyfriend who has apparently been haunting Sara’s life, Julia attempts to find answers in her increasingly gloomy world.

The film is almost entirely muted in tones of grey and blue, edged in shadow, and is excellently atmospheric from Morales. Julia is the only spark in this shifting darkness, her blonde hair the sunniest thing in a dark world. Shrouded in darkness, the claustrophobic effect of Julia’s loss of sight is enough to provoke something close to panic as the shifting gloom moves in. The panic that forces Julia into the lit corners is crushing, and as her dependence on others peaks, it is made more cruel by her greater need for autonomy, as she faces disbelief and mistrust from those around her as she searches for her sister’s killer. Marriage issues and hints at an untrustworthy husband only increase the pressure she is under; as her sight fails, her life begins to crumble. Rueda plays Julia with a fragile strength – often caught between panic and anger – she is determined to discover the truth behind her sister’s death and the dark presence that appears to be ghosting her. Characters are shrouded in mystery by the very facts that, just as Julia can’t see them, neither can we; the furtive man she knows to be following her is neatly excised from the shot.  Julia’s search is not only for this dangerous man; she must also find a way to reconcile herself with her future in the dark, to find a way to live in the blackness and not become a shadow.  As the film unfolds, we see that it is the faceless sinister man, trailing her movements in the darkness, who is the “sombra” and it is his fear of being invisible that drives him.

There are a couple of scenes, while not quite reaching the horror of the infamous Un Chien Andalou, which are pretty much guaranteed to produce a squirm. On the whole, however, it isn’t really a full horror, lacking the intensity of darker supernatural films, such as El Orphanato (to which Julia’s Eyes bears a comparison). There is a definite Hitchcockian tilt to the film – unknown figures, affairs and secrets, all tangled up in a detective story –  Morales makes something rather eerie out of a situation that is very real and very threatening. Crescendos of action and suspense keep the pace moving quite quickly, and, despite being slightly long, the suspense is pleasingly sustained.

The DVD has few extras: solely comprised of very brief commentaries from director, lead actor and actress and producer. That the producer is the godlike Guillermo Del Toro is pretty much the only notable feature. That, plus, from their testimony it would seem that Belén Rueda is by far the nicest and most hardworking actress in film, but I am not sure these admiring homilies add much to the film – likewise a rather pointless B-film look at some sets.

Hannah Turner

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