Apparently, Guillermo Del Toro ‘presents’ Julia’s Eyes. This probably means next to nothing, of course, however, I couldn’t help but constantly think that the Pan’s Labyrinth director might have brought a lot to this production which lacks a creative spark and contains more flaws than a block of flats.
Guillem Morales is the man at the helm of this Spanish-language story about Julia (Belen Rueda), a woman who has a degenerative optometric condition, i.e. she is progessively going blind. Â At the start of the film her sister, who suffers from the same condition but at a more serious stage, hangs herself, apparently unable to cope with being blind. Â However, after Julia does a little digging with her husband (Lluis homar) she realises that the circumstances surrounding her sister’s demise may not be quite as straightforward.
You could say that the circumstances turn out to be a little darker, which couldn’t possibly be more appropriate. Â The entire film is about darkness, or at least the inability to see. Being blind is a terrifying prospect for anyone, and the film attempts to encapsulate this fear. Â However, this may lead you to believe that Julia’s Eyes can be labelled as a horror, which it incorrectly has in various places. Â The IMDB lists it as a horror first, and a thriller second – the truth is it is primarily a thriller, a ‘phycological thriller’, if you will, with elements of horror entwined. Think One Hour Photo, which is a similar movie in many ways.
Your definition of the film’s genre will be skewed by your definition of a ‘horror movie’. If you consider that to be a film that makes you jump, then Julia’s Eyes does that on a couple of occasions. If you consider that to be a film that contains lots of gore, then Julia’s Eyes saves that for the very end. Â Either way, while it’s scary at times, horror-enthusiasts are not going to feel like this ticks the necessary boxes.
Overall the film is tantamount to being a mishmash of genres, failing to nail one or t’other. Â The phycological-thriller scenes are the best ones – utilising the power of darkness, and the human race’s intuitive fear of the unknown, to create moments that have you veering towards the edge of your seat. Â It’s a good feeling, but it never quite amounts to its potential, and, when the film starts playing out the same scenarios again and again, you’ll feel this tension rescinding.
It’s shot nicely, the music is good and the majority of scenes play out at a good pace, contriving to create an atmospheric experience. Â So, when considering these aspects, why is it that Julia’s Eyes just isn’t very good?Â One huge flaw that the film contains is its treatment of the characters. That is not to knock the performances, which are on the whole proficent. Â However, all the actions that they are scripted to take quickly become repetitive and implausible. Why, oh why, is she going into that dark room on her own again? Haven’t you learnt by now that bad things keep happening when you can’t see? Not long into the film you start to get a panging sense of deja vu, giving you the ability to pinpoint when certain events are about to happen.Â When the film reaches its denouement, this repetition means that it doesn’t build to the climax you hoped it might – it’s by no means predictable, but it’s not particularly interesting or exciting either.
However, what I did really like about Julia’s Eyes was the effort to be inventive. Â There are a few camera shots and techniques that are quite original and look genuinely impressive; without these it would probably be dull. Where the creative spark is lacking is in the script, which not only doesn’t try particularly hard to immerse you, it actually contrives to hold the actors back in their performances. I think Julia’s Eyes is a good idea in concept, and is executed well in visual production, but there’s a gaping hole when you think about the screenplay. It’s not that the dialogue is bad, it’s the entire narrative. Perhaps if they’d have run the script through the editing-mill a couple more times, and it had been impacted by a few more creative visions (*cough* Del Toro *cough*), then it would have been a far better film.