Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Julia's Eyes - Dir. Guillem Morales

Guillem Morales’s film ‘Los ojos de Julia’ (English translation: ‘Julia’s Eyes’) is another recent Spanish import from the production desk of Guillermo Del Toro which manages to adequately combine an engaging plot with many well-orchestrated visual sequences.

Julia (Belen Rueda) is devastated when she finds out that her sister twin Sara (also played by Rueda) has committed suicide, apparently due to her inability to cope with her recent blindness which is part of a genetic disease that will effect both sisters throughout their lifetimes. Sensing something is wrong and with her sight slowly fading, Julia alongside her husband Isaac (Lluis Homar) sets out to investigate her lingering suspicions surrounding her sister’s death. Including an apparent boyfriend that nobody can ever recall seeing nor can they describe him and the myriad of characters which she encounteres throughout her existence. As Julia’s sight begins to slowly fade, she must attempt to unravel the mystery behind her sister’s death.

Where Morales makes ‘Julia’s Eyes’ work is in the combination of subtle close-up shots, atmospheric lighting and the alternating use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound, he and cinematographer Oscar Faura literally place the viewer within the confines of central protagonist. Instead of simply utilizing the age-old, and overcooked mainstream cinematic method of providing a false scare, followed by heightened non-diegetic sound, they as an alternative, allow the emphasis of the situation to be drawn from Julia’s surroundings. Close-up, and medium-close-up shots of insignificant objects, and segments of wall, become ever more important as Julia’s eyesight begins to slowly fade. While the avoidance of recording any distinguishing facial features of many male characters, especially during the second and third acts of the film, not only instils a sense of mystery in the title, but also again represents Julia’s impending loss of sight. By primarily using the visual aesthetics to communicate to the audience the tone and atmosphere of the piece, Morales extends the engagement of the picture to further audiences by not necessarily providing a scare with every scene, but by consistently keeping the tension up at a high level.

The film isn’t without flaw however; the story is cluttered with many sequences essentially repeating aspects of the story that have already been stated for the viewer and this unfortunately adds a further ten minutes to the running time of the picture. While the actors Belen Rueda and Lluis Homar provide strong emotional performances throughout, the majority of the remaining cast members attempt nothing to step outside of their stereotypical roles, nor is any screen-time provided for them with any depth beyond their scope as a one-time narrative pusher. Everybody else becomes somewhat of a pawn in Julia’s mystery and while there are some potentially interesting characters around her, they are never fully developed to the extent where they can make an impact on the film’s overall narrative. ‘Julia’s Eyes’ is yet another above-average addition to the Spanish horror/thriller genre, which despite being slightly overlong, contains a solid story with many convoluted and inter-connected twists keeping the third act engrossing until the end credit sequence begins.
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