Julia's Eyes (Los ojos de Julia)
So I went into Julia's Eyes with a lot of positivity. I was hopeful that we were going to see more of the same engaging and stylish filming, but with more experience from the director shining through, and I'd say I was rewarded with just that.
As Julia moves into her sister's house to try and get closer to her life and her death she begins to succumb to the disease, and as her vision begins to fail so the events behind her sister's death start to become clearer.
Julia's Eyes grabs you from the opening scenes when we see the instigating event of the whole film. From that moment you feel as though you're placed with the main character and siding with their beliefs, however bizarre they may seem, and this sets you up for the entire film to be on side with Julia, which is a great feeling and perspective for the rest of the film.
While it does fix you with the main character it also sows seeds of confusion regarding her, setting up an uncertainty in your own mind about what could really be happening, and this doesn't get cleared up until much later in the film. It's this foundation of uncertainty that begins building the unease and tension for the film and it's a great place to start.
From here on I felt connected with the character and I was drawn right into her story, feeling her confusion right from the beginning which carries through the film, rising at times to panic and fear, and later in the film terror. It's something that I can attest to as can my wife who heard me shouting at the screen twice while I watched it, something I rarely do, and I was in the cinema room with the door locked at the time.
There is a strong sense of unease from very early on, and when Julia moves into the house you really do start to feel a much stronger level of creepiness delivered through some of the shots and the characters, it is really good at getting to you through the delivery of the story and that's down to the style of Morales.
I did see connections with The Uninvited Guest (El Habitante Incierto) (Filmstalker review), but these are on the outside premise of the story and here we have a much richer story with more threads and stronger characters that is much more effective at keeping you emotionally involved.
The story plays out well and for the most part you're with it every step of the way, but there are some odder moments that are slightly less than believable, and some plot turns that might just cause you a moment or two of hesitation, however it does work well overall and it never goes far enough to take your belief in the film away or push you out of the story.
I wonder that with Morales films you perhaps just need a little bit of an ability to accept the slightly odder moments with the rest of the film, and I think for those that can't these smaller moments might stick out a lot more than they do for those who can.
Morales brings a great style to the film although at times early on I was getting a little fed up of the overuse of the effect of moving the camera into the image, but it does back off a little during the film as it is front heavy on its use, and I guess I became used to it and the more I was pulled into the film the less I realised it was happening.
There are also a few sequences that use a point of view aspect and I was actually surprised to find that it fitted well with the scene and the rest of the film and never bothered me as it does in other films where it feels forced and designed to take advantage of 3D or artificially push you into a moment. Here I noticed it but felt I was with the character much more.
Belén Rueda is not only engaging on screen, she's a rather beautiful actress, but she also delivers a very powerful performance. I believed her character and the emotions that she was conveying throughout the film, and she delivers a fair amount through her physical performance too. I think a large part of the connection with the character and her story was through her performance, and not just her cinematic prowess.
There's a lot of attention to detail in the filming as well as the story and because of both it will force you to do a little more work than you would with Hollywood fare, and that's always a good thing. The film and story won't just come to you, you're forced to think a little and make connections, although that said even if you're one of these passive, let the film wash over you type of people you'll still find it a good film.
The film has strong lighting and cinematography throughout and there's not a scene that doesn't look carefully considered for either as well as some sequences delivering really clever use of visuals that all help keep you engaged.
Julia's Eyes delivers a very strong thriller that grabs the audience, pulls them in and keeps them on edge right to the end, delivering a few surprises on the way and not only does it get you engaged, but it makes you think on the way there too.
With a powerful lead performance from Belén Rueda and excellent directing by Guillem Morales backed by wonderful cinematography from Óscar Faura, the film doesn't just thrill you but it delivers plenty of style at the same time.