(Los Ojos de Julia)
Despite premiering at TIFF and doing the rounds of several festivals, Julia's Eyes was never picked up for arthouse release in the US and failed to attract much in the way of notice. My expectations of it were mixed, which left me surprised by what a good film it actually is. Guillem Morales has taken the thriller staple of the blind woman stalked by a killer see the likes of Wait Until Dark (1967), See No Evil (1971), Blind Fear (1989), Jennifer Eight (1992), Blink (1994), Blind Obsession (2000) and Penthouse North (2013) and created something unique with it.
I was highly impressed by what a good director Guillem Morales proves to be. The film holds your grip from the opening scene where Belen Rueda (playing the sister) is seeing and reacting to something but we dont see anything there, leading us to think she is imagining things, before she goes down to the cellar and puts the noose around her neck and a figure then abruptly appears and kicks the stool away from under her. Moraless eerie games continue Belen Rueda (playing Julia now) goes to the graveside and feels husband Lluis Homar touching her shoulder from behind only to look up and see he is standing some way away then turns to find nobody behind her. And especially the scene where she goes to the rec centre and enters the locker room where the other blind women stand around bitching about Sara while she stands in their midst with they unaware of her, only for things to turn sinister when they sense someone there and even more so when they warn her that someone else is following her.
The script creates a constantly building mystery about what happened to Sara about the mysterious boyfriend, revelations that she turned up at the hotel wearing a blindfold and then the appearance of janitor Joan Dalmau who eerily warns her about the person who exists as a shadow, an absence of light. (The film has a rich vein of metaphor concerning sight/blindness, invisibility and the socially ignored). The script is structured with a series of sharp and abrupt twists. Morales generates some particularly gripping tension during the scenes where the killer takes Julia to his house and she prematurely removes the bandages from her eyes but acts as though she still cannot see, even as he holds a knife right up beside her eyeball and pretends to make a phonecall to the police. Even when the killers identity is revealed and Belen Rueda is fleeing for her life, the script still manages to keep throwing in some jolting twists.
(Nominee for Best Director (Guillem Morales) at this sites Best of 2010 Awards).