Review: Julia’s Eyes

Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro presents Guillem Morales’ stylish thriller about a woman trying to find her sister’s murderer before her degenerative eye disease renders her blind.

Directed by: Guillem Morales
Written by: Guillem Morales, Oriol Paulo
Starring: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Julia Gutiérrez Caba
Released: 2010 / Genre: Horror / Country: Spain / IMDB
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Guillermo Del Toro (the mastermind behind Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, and Mimic) took a break from directing to nurture the talents of other filmmakers leading to such fan favourites as Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage. He also produced Vincenzo Natali’s Splice, Sebastián Cordero’s Rage and Troy Nixey’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. His 2010 collaboration with Barcelona-born filmmaker Guillem Morales produced Julia’s Eyes, a stylish thriller about a woman suffering from an incurable degenerative eye disease who believes her sister was murdered after being found hung in her basement. The police and Julia’s husband believe it was suicide but she is convinced there was foul play involved and sets out to discover the truth before her own eyesight gives up on her.

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The film, as is often the case with thrillers from mainland Europe, has a great sense of style. From unnerving use of the sound space, atmospheric lighting and a frequency of close-ups to add detail, Julia’s Eyes has an immediacy that hooks its audience into an intriguing plot. Belén Rueda is excellent as Julia, a woman desperately searching for the truth about a sister she feels she let down, and yet has to battle her own illness. She is also cornered by her detractors – the disbelieving police detective and honest but misguided husband – who draw you into her seemingly losing plight.

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Certainly, Morales knows how to use his camera. There’s a sense of the Hitchcockian about the way he visualises Julia’s condition, and he uses his protagonist’s impending blindness to blind the audience as well, often shrouding us in darkness, or later in the film hiding character faces to example Julia’s lack of sight. There’s a terrific scene when Julia visits a community centre for the blind and stumbles into the changing rooms as several women talk about her sister’s recent death. The women, who are all blind, don’t know Julia is there listening but eventually one of them senses her by the way she smells. This curious scene takes on a macabre undertone as the woman who smelled Julia asks who is the man she entered with. A bemused Julia tells her she came alone, only for the blind woman to explain that the mysterious man is stood behind her.

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But aside from some wonderfully creepy moments, Julia’s Eyes is ultimately shackled by a final third that features some convoluted plotting and a disappointing revelation. It seems harsh to criticise a film that is at times thoroughly engrossing, and anyone not well-versed in the work of Alfred Hitchcock will find Julia’s Eyes somewhat refreshing, however, despite Morales’ competency with the camera, the stylish nature of the film cannot hide what is a resolutely conventional thriller.

Julia’s Eyes was released on DVD/Blu-ray September 12th.

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

This review is part of 31 Days of Horror:

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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    Thomas Reply

    Indeed, a mixed bag of successful style and less successful plot twists and turns. I enjoyed the level of creepiness that was sustained through most of the film, but was also not too satisfied by how they decide to unravel all the mysteries. I am still looking forward to both the next film fro this director and from the next one coming out of the apparently big family of del Toro disciples.

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    DEZMOND Reply

    I don’t watch a lot of horrors, but a good review, Danzel :PPP
    It’s always spooky when eyes are the target in horrors, like in the latest FINAL DESTINATION in that scene where the woman is lying under some eye machine …. horrid ….

  3. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Dezmond: I think it’s one of those inherent human responses – we are all squeamish about our eyes getting injured in some way (or indeed – the worst possible – losing sight altogether).

  4. Avatar
    TheScarletSp1der Reply

    I remember Scott’s review over at FrontRoomCinema. Julia’s Eyes will prob be on Netflix soon. I will wait to check it out then.

    thanks for the write up!

  5. Avatar
    Custard Reply

    I think I liked it a little more than you.

    Great write though my friend, and I used exactly the same images for my review!!


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    Blandine Etienne Reply

    Just finished watching this. I gave it 3.5 stars. This movie was almost 2 hours long and I did start to fidget in a few places. The tone and style of the movie reminded me of both Hitchcock and Brian De Palma (his early work). The story did get complicated and built up to a soft ending. However lots of good stuff going on: acting, atmosphere, filming in such a way that we see or don’t see characters from Julia’s perspective.

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