The latest case in point is “Julia’s Eyes,” a Spanish thriller that kept me on that proverbial edge of my seat for most all of its 115 minutes. A good rule of thumb is that if you were moved and menaced by 2007’s “The Orphanage,” then by all means, see this.
Sharing a leading lady in the striking Belén Rueda, the film finds Julia in mourning and shock after the news that her twin sister, Sara (also played by Rueda), has been found dead by suicide. Julia refuses to believe it, because if her blind sibling was excited over a surgery that would restore her sight, why on earth would she kill herself?
Recruiting her reluctant, but loving husband (Lluís Homar, “Broken Embraces”), Julia embarks on an amateur investigation to find the person she believes must be responsible for Sara’s death. From the prologue, we know she is correct, but the viewer is as unprepared as Julia for what she uncovers. That goes double for Julia, whose eyesight starts to deteriorate as well.
Director/co-writer Guillem Morales (“The Uninvited Guest”) rather cannily shares our heroine’s affliction with us in a number of ways, from clouding his images to a shooting everyone she interacts with below the neck. If she can’t see their faces, neither will we. This visual trick is a simple one, but undeniably effective.
“Julia’s Eyes” could be seen as an expansion of “Wait Until Dark”’s concept, but thematically and emotionally richer, with more substance and surprises injected than a drug to an optic nerve (which we see occur in an uncomfortable close-up, needle piercing the eyeball and all — ocular trauma gets me every time).
Rueda again proves herself a hell of an actress, even when she spends half the time with her head bandaged, keeping much of her expressive visage hidden. She’s pretty incredible, as is this wonderfully discomforting film. —Rod Lott