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[FrightFest 2023] FILM REVIEW: My Mother's Eyes

My Mother's Eyes - FrightFest International Premiere


Director: Takeshi Kushida

Starring: Akane Ono, Takuma Izumi, Mone Shitara, Shûzaku Uchida


Written by: Takeshi Kushida

Produced by: Shin Nishimura, Yosuke Sato

Cinematography by: Yu Oishi

Original Score by: Hitoshi Fushimi


Synopsis:

After Hitomi's blindness is cured by a specially designed contact lens in the aftermath of a tragic car accident, she becomes an avatar for her daughter who has been paralysed in the same accident.



Thoughts:

Writer/Director Takeshi Kushida returns to FrightFest three years after his debut 'Woman of the Photographs' with a hypnotic, technology fuelled drama about the profound connection between a Mother and her daughter.



Hitomi Eida (Akane Ono) is a supremely accomplished cellist who now teaches for a living instead of playing concerts and her daughter Eri (Mone Shitara) has inherited her talent. They seem close at first, obviously sharing the love for their instrument, but Eri suspects that her Mother's love is just an illusion and that Hitomi would've preferred never to have given birth to her at all. While brazenly questioning her Mother about this during a car ride, Hitomi begins to loose her vision, something that has been hinted at in the build up to this moment, and she looses control of the car.



Waking up in hospital without her sight, Hitomi then finds out that although Eri has survived the car crash she is fatally wounded and paralysed from the neck downwards. Hitomi begins to receive aftercare from the hospital staff but she is clearly struggling with the thought of having to live the rest of her life without her sight and with a daughter who will never be able to move her body ever again.


Doing some research online, Hitomi comes across an article that details this magical new contact lens that can help bring back the vision to the sightless. It's still in the development phase but Hitomi is eager to give it a go so she makes contact with the writer of the article first then the developer of the lens.



The new contact lens is a success and Hitomi can see again but there's a lot of added baggage that comes with using them as laid out by the designer Wanibuchi (Shûzaku Ushida) including not being able to cry while wearing them and having to charge them via a pillow while you sleep.



Feeling guilt and regret towards her daughter, Hitomi concocts a plan to allow the two to connect on a super intimate level. Hitomi syncs her contact lenses to Eri's virtual reality headset, which allows Eri to see through her Mother's eyes at all times. Hitomi also promises to act as Eri's eyes, ears and even mouth for the foreseeable future. She is essentially her bedridden daughter's avatar in the real world outside of her hospital room.


Furthermore to this is the fact that Wanibuchi has complete access to the lenses and can also see what Hitomi sees at all times. He uses an app on a tablet and is able to control the lenses to his liking. Soon we also find out that his son Satoshi has a personal connection to Hitomi and Eri and this leads to a bizarre turn of events.



Kushida's intrusive film is heavily drawn on modern technology and isn't actually as far fetched as you might think. There's some painfully slow moments in the first half of the film but they're purposeful and the pace is emblematic of the character's relationship and their torturous ordeal. Eri complains about having a never-ending dream of seeing the hospital ceiling and lights but of course this is actually her reality and her life is actually the nightmare. It's agonising for her and that's reflected well in the somewhat passive build up towards the moment Hitomi connects with Eri.


The musical score of the film is hugely important as the story progresses. It's all cello and accompanying strings and the volume and pace of the music intensifies when the characters are exhibiting strong emotions. Even the volume of the foley and sound design cranks up during the more passionate scenes.



'My Mother's Eyes' is tenacious and provocative with moments of sudden violence towards the latter quarter. While it's connection with reality is left up in the air and it's ambiguous nature might not be everyone's cup of tea, it's very aesthetically pleasing with incredibly emotional yet subtle performances from it's lead cast.


Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️


- Gavin Logan


'My Mother's Eyes' received it's International Premiere at FrightFest '23 on August 28th

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