Guillermo del Toro protégé Guillem Morales is hoping to break through with his Spanish thriller Julia’s Eyes, which stars Belen Rueda of Del Toro’s other production, The Orphanage. While the film has its moments, ultimately it’s 45 minutes too long.
In the film Julia (Rueda) returns to Bellevue with her husband to visit her sister Sarah (which is also played by Rueda), who is near blind due to a degenerative illness for which she has unsuccessfully undergone surgery. When they arrive, Julia finds that Sarah has taken her own life and none of her mysterious neighbors seem to be all that surprised. Julia has to confront not only the loss of her sister, but also the loss of all hope halting her own impending blindness, as she suffers from the same illness and would appear to be destined for the same end as her sister.
Featuring stunning cinematography by Óscar Faura (The Machinist, Transsiberian, The Abandoned), Morales’ film relies heavily on the bleak atmosphere as he spends way too much time attempting to build a thriller that’s all too obvious from the start. A quasi-Giallo-infused tale, we see the hands, gloves, coat, and back of the head of the assailant, who is poorly pushed on audiences as a possible “ghost.” Morales even shows the audience the killer in an awkward moment that appears to be a red herring, but it’s not. And even more obvious is a moment where we meet one of the neighbors who talks creepily about her missing son. All of the pieces to the puzzle are already assembled, with a few scattered here and there – none of which are enough to hold your interest. Once the villain is unmasked, the finale runs a little bland as the thriller becomes a cat and mouse chase around the house. Each scene runs too long and there’s not enough mystery to keep the audience’s attention. When the first of two hours comes to an end, the entire theater lit up like a Christmas tree (to go on their f*cking cell phones) as the boredom of the audience reached maximum levels.
If you can tolerate an overly long film, Julia’s Eyes gives homage to classic Argento flicks and is still extremely well made. Rueda’s performance is remarkable and creates a character that the audience can give a sh*t about. And even the bloodhounds will find solace in some horrifically violent sequences, all of which are for and few between. But ultimately, Del Toro failed to deliver something as riveting and engaging as The Orphanage.