Directed by Guillem Morales. Starring Belén Rueda ("Julia", "Sara"), Lluís Homar ("Isaac"), Pablo Derqui ("Ángel"), and Francesc Orella ("Inspector Dimas"). Not Rated.
Source: Region 1 DVD (IFC)
Running time: 01:57:18
I don't know about you, but the name "Guillermo del Toro" being attached to a project doesn't really hold a lot of weight with me, and JULIA'S EYES (one of my most highly anticipated horror releases this year) unfortunately doesn't do anything to change that. JULIA'S EYES follows the eponymous Julia as she attempts to make sense of the mysterious circumstances surrounding death of her twin sister who was found hanging in her home. There's a twist in that the two sisters were born with a disease that causes gradual blindness. While Julia's sister, Sara, had already been stricken the disease and was totally blind at the time of her death, Julia begins losing her sight immediately following the death of Sara, which comes into play as she struggles to simultaneously adapt to her lack of sight and solve the mystery of Sara's death, which she believes wasn't a suicide.
It's suggested in the opening sequence of the film that not only was someone else in Sara's home at the time of her death, but that this person seemingly drove her to commit suicide. I won't reveal whether or not this other person was a ghost, hallucination, or an actual being, but it wouldn't be a spoiler to say that this "invisible man" who seems to only dwell in the shadows turns up as the film draws closer to its conclusion.
To the film's credit, the manner in which Julia's blindness is exploited throughout the film is both logical and quite brilliant, but that's all I'll say about that; not that there any huge surprises in the film as it relates to Julia's blindness or anything, but director Guillem Morales does an exceptional job of cinematically injecting a sense of paranoia and tension to the proceedings by using certain camera techniques that allow the viewer to relate to Julia's "handicap" as much as possible without actually showing you a black screen for a portion of the film's running time. Like Julia, the viewer also becomes blind to certain things as the film goes on, in terms of both visuals and narrative.
Aside from Belén Rueda (THE ORPHANAGE) doing a decent enough job in dual roles as Julia and Sara, JULIA'S EYES is incredibly well-done from a cinematic standpoint. The cinematography and music work hand in hand to create tension, atmosphere, frenzy, and panic when needed. A certain set-piece towards the end of the film is, in a good way, very De Palma-esque and easily the film's standout sequence.
My main issue with JULIA'S EYES is the writing. I also have issues with the character of Julia and how the film essentially portrays blind people as freaks, but I don't really need to get into that. Without revealing too much about the writing, I'll just say that there are a lot of minor characters who come into the picture throughout the film, all of whom are downright fucking silly and blatantly speak in exposition as a means of moving the story along. Guillermo del Toro had nothing to do with the film's writing other than acting as an adviser of sorts, but it's strange that it suffers from the same thing that bothers me about del Toro's own productions: great visuals, weak script. Regardless of JULIA'S EYES not living up to my hopes, it's still a solid thriller for the most part, and one that I recommend; the only thing keeping me from giving a somewhat high recommendation (despite my issues with the writing) is the unwarranted lengthy running time.