The Movie Waffler Screamfest LA 2023 Review - MY MOTHER’S EYES | The Movie Waffler

Screamfest LA 2023 Review - MY MOTHER’S EYES

My Mother's Eyes review
A mother attempts to connect with her daughter through a device that allows her to see through her eyes.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Takeshi Kushida

Starring: Akane Ono, Mone Shitara, Takuma Izumi, Shusaku Uchida, Kosuke Hoshi

My Mother's Eyes poster

When composer Bernard Herrmann was tasked with providing musical accompaniment to the brutal stabbing of a showering Janet Leigh in Hitchcock's Psycho, it's no surprise that he opted to score the scene solely with strings. There's something particularly violent about such instruments, particularly the cello. Watch a cellist in full flight as they stab and rake their bow across their instrument's strings and it can often look like an act of wildly violent catharsis.

It's no surprise then that so many horror movies have featured cellists, from What Lies Beneath to the recent The Perfection, while movies like Short Cuts and Tar have featured troubled women who play the instrument.

My Mother's Eyes review

The latest filmmaker to mount a cello between the legs of their leading lady is Takeshi Kushida. His anti-heroine is Hitomi (Akane Ono), a cellist who can only relate to her young daughter Eri (Mone Shitara) when the two perform together. Hitomi had the child out of wedlock and regrets not having an abortion, something Eri has picked up on due to her mother's coldness.

Hitomi's eyesight is rapidly failing and she suffers increasing blackouts. While driving her daughter home from a recital, Hitomi loses her sight just as Eri decides to ask her mother why she kept a child she clearly never wanted. Ploughing her car into the wall of a tunnel, Hitomi wakes in hospital to find that she's now permanently blind and Eri is paralysed from the neck down.

My Mother's Eyes review

As her sight was fading, Hitomi had become fascinated with an article regarding a scientific breakthrough – a contact lens that can restore sight to the blind. Contacting the writer of the article, Hitomi is put in touch with the creator of the device (Shusaku Uchida), who takes her to live in the remote home he shares with his teenage son Satoshi (Takuma Izumi), who also happens to be a cellist. There Hitmoi is fitted with the lens, which do indeed miraculously restore her sight. With the use of an app, Hitomi can control the level of light that enters her new artificial retina. The app also allows anyone else to see through her eyes on any device running the programme. As a means of connecting with her daughter, Hitomi pairs her lens with Eri's VR headset, allowing her to see the world through her eyes rather than staring at the ceiling of her hospital room all day. Hitomi also agrees to let Eri essentially control her actions by feeding her words which she must repeat, no matter how uncomfortable they might be for Hitomi to speak.

If you've seen Kushida's previous feature, Woman of the Photographs, you'll be familiar with his curious blending of sentimentality and sadism. If the bonding of mother and daughter seems heartwarming at first, boy does it get weird. Forcing her to speak, Eri manipulates her mother into seducing Satoshi, and watches from her hospital bed as her mother gets intimate with the young man. When Hitomi gets pregnant, Eri's own stomach begins to mysteriously swell, confounding her doctors.

My Mother's Eyes review

Kushida's obsession with technology and flesh might lead some to label him a Japanese cousin of David Cronenberg. He certainly has some ideas here that the Canadian auteur would be proud of, but he never quite explores them in any great detail. You may find yourself mouthing the words "well, that's weird" at regular intervals throughout My Mother's Eyes, but there isn't much food for thought. The idea of an app that connects parents with their children is one that would no doubt fuel a more interesting film, as it raises very modern issues regarding how to walk the line between monitoring your children and invading their privacy. Kushida simply wields it as a device to generate a few shock moments however. There's also an idea worth exploring here regarding whether a virtual connection is a viable substitute for the real thing.

It all leads to the sort of bloody climax Japanese genre filmmakers excel at, with a cello bow unsurprisingly wielded as an instrument to tear through brittle flesh. It's sprung on the audience too early though, as the film hasn't gone far enough at that point in developing or cementing its curious themes.

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