I've been watching horror films since I was 3 years old. They've never given me nightmares. Until now.
In the opening moments of Nicolas Pesce's The Eyes of My Mother, grade-schooler Francisca (Olivia Bond) stands mesmerized by her mother's (Diana Agostini) professional surgical skills, on display as mom dissects a cow's eye on their kitchen table — she was an eye surgeon back in the old country. Within minutes, a jittery preacher-like man (Will Brill) approaches the house and utters to the mother the words of every woman's nightmares: "Is your husband home?"
Mother and daughter are at this man's mercy for a quick, barbed scene that changes the course of Francisca's life. Pesce makes the inspired decision to depict all violence offscreen. What's shown instead are the jarring emotional moments, as Francisca watches her stoic father (Paul Nazak) bury her mother and chain the murderer in their barn. Father and daughter carry on as though nothing has changed, and after Francisca's successfully sewn up the murderer's wounds, she tells him with chilling sincerity that she doesn't plan to kill him.
Then we shift some 10 years later to grown-up Francisca (Kika Magalhaes), the loneliest woman who ever lived. Her quirky, polite demureness belies her psychopathy -- that man is still in the barn, his eyes sewn shut and vocal cords severed. When all the gore and violence and terror can only be suggested or hinted at, the sound -- not the image -- of a sharp knife pulled from a drawer means everything. A moment moment where a knife plunges into someone's skin has returned to me in dreams.