Director: Guillem Morales
“He knows how to be a shadow. He has no light. Nobody looks at him.”
Astronomer Julia suffers from a degenerative condition which is slowly blinding her. Her twin sister, Sara, is already blind and when Sara commits suicide Julia begins to suspect the involvement of an unknown man. With her eyesight diminishing by the day, Julia tries to solve the mystery of her sister’s death. And someone is watching.
Made in 2010, this Spanish gem reaches the UK with little fanfare and only the name of producer Guillermo del Toro to make anyone take notice. Hopefully that will be enough because Julia’s Eyes is well worth any attention it gets. Del Toro and actress Belén Rueda worked together previously on the 2007 ghost story The Orphanage, and continue that successful partnership with this taut and well-executed thriller.
With more than a passing nod to the movies of Dario Argento, Co-writer and director Morales’ second feature is certainly a slow burner, running to just under two hours, but it rewards your patience. It keeps you guessing for a while, gradually revealing its hand as it draws toward a gripping final act as Julia discovers the truth and finds herself trapped in a terrifying situation.
Rueda delivers another great performance as the grief-stricken Julia, determined to unravel the circumstances of her sister’s suicide while struggling to cope with her own failing vision. As the hub around which events revolve, Rueda is completely believable, conveying much with the simplest facial gesture and navigating the changes in Julia’s condition well. It is also to Morales’ credit that Julia’s blindness never feels like some contrived gimmick around which cool set pieces and a sense of urgency can be deployed. And while the twists and turns are not always remarkably clever, they are honest and not overblown so you don’t end up feeling cheated.
Julia’s Eyes could have lost twenty minutes of running time and not unduly suffered, but that isn’t to say that it drags at any point. It is one of those movies where you get out of it what you put into it and those looking for a thrill-a-minute ride may get fidgety. However, stick with it and you will find yourself pulled along, gripping the arm of your chair and gritting your teeth in a few places. Julia’s Eyes is another example of how Spanish cinema is more than the equal of any other.