FrightFest 2023: My Mother’s Eyes Captures the Moral Ambiguity of Modern Tech

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My Mother’s Eyes was my most anticipated film at FrightFest this year. It was made by Takeshi Kushida, and several months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing his previous film, Woman of the Photographs, when it was released here in the States. I absolutely loved it, so naturally, I couldn’t wait to see what Kushida would do next. I requested a screener for this movie as soon as I could, and after finally getting a chance to watch it, I’m happy to report that it’s another winner.

My Mother’s Eyes was written and directed by Takeshi Kushida, and it stars Akane Ono, Mone Shitara, Takuma Izumi, and Shusaku Uchida. It’s about a mother and daughter pair named Hitomi and Eri, and after they get into a bad car accident, their lives change forever. Hitomi is left blind, and Eri is paralyzed from the neck down, so their futures don’t seem too bright.

But one day, Hitomi learns about some experimental new contact lenses that can restore her sight, and she tries them out. They work, but her daughter is still out of luck. Her paralysis has her so depressed that she wants to die, so Hitomi takes a pretty radical measure to cheer the girl up. She links her new contact lenses to Eri’s VR headset, so now her daughter can see everything she sees and have the sensation of moving around and enjoying life via proxy.

Right from the get-go, My Mother’s Eyes had me hooked. This film has a hypnotic quality that immediately draws you in and keeps your eyes glued to the screen the entire time, so I just couldn’t look away. It’s tough to put my finger on what exactly causes that effect, but something about the way the acting, cinematography, and sound come together makes this movie absolutely enchanting.

A man screaming
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Even when nothing particularly interesting is happening, My Mother’s Eyes is just an absolute joy to watch, so I never found myself feeling bored or anxious for the story to pick up the pace. And that’s important because this film is a fairly slow burn. It takes its time to set up the two main characters and their relationship, so for most of its runtime, it feels more like a drama than a horror movie.

In fact, there was a point when I began to wonder if there was going to be any real horror in here at all, but even then, I was so engrossed in the film that I didn’t really care. I just wanted to see how this story played out, so even though I did wonder when the horror would kick in, I wasn’t particularly concerned about it.

And even if I was actually concerned, My Mother’s Eyes would’ve assuaged that fear soon enough. There is some very real horror in here, and it’s awesome. At first, the film doesn’t really try to scare or horrify us. Instead, it just lets the creepiness inherent in this whole situation do all the work. There are some things a teenager shouldn’t see her mother do, but Eri sees them anyway. And let me tell you, it’s pretty creepy.

Granted, the movie doesn’t go out of its way to highlight that creepiness, but it doesn’t have to. The feeling just arises naturally from the things Eri sees Hitomi do, and in my opinion, that kind of horror is way more effective than anything a filmmaker can manufacture.

Then, as My Mother’s Eyes goes on, the horror becomes more and more explicit. Some genuinely horrific things happen, and there are even a few moments when the film gets bloody and violent. In particular, the end of the movie features a pretty crazy scene involving Hitomi and two other characters, and I had a ton of fun with it.

Three people hugging
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On top of all that, this film also has some really great music. Hitomi and Eri are both cellists, so much of the score is just cello music, and surprisingly, I quite enjoyed it. It’s not at all the kind of music I normally go for, and to be frank, I don’t plan on tracking this score down and jamming to it in my free time. But in the context of the movie, it’s awesome. It fits the characters and the story just about perfectly, so whenever that cello music hit, I had a really great time listening to it.

Last but not least, I want to talk a bit about the message of My Mother’s Eyes. As you can probably tell from the plot synopsis, this film is basically a parable about the way people use technology today, and it’s a bit more complex than I was expecting. See, Takeshi Kushida’s last movie, Woman of the Photographs, was fairly straightforward. It was all about the various ways people can use technology to create false realities for themselves, and given the premise of this film, I thought it would have the same basic message.

And to a certain extent, it does. The creepiness of Eri seeing everything her mother does definitely speaks to the potential problems technology can pose, and there are a few other plot developments that send a similar message as well. But there are also some elements of this story that point in the opposite direction.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that Hitomi’s new sci-fi tech doesn’t end up being all bad, so on the whole, I’d say that My Mother’s Eyes is actually much more balanced than I was expecting. The film recognizes that modern technology has both pros and cons, and I really appreciated that. Few things in our world today are entirely good or bad, so we need this kind of balance when evaluating the issues that arise in both our individual lives and in society as a whole.

It’s a great message, and it helps make My Mother’s Eyes a great movie. Seriously, this film is pretty much everything I wanted it to be, and given how high my expectations were, that’s saying something. So if you get a chance to watch this movie at another festival or after it gets a general release, I highly recommend that you do. You won’t regret it.

My Mother’s Eyes had its world premiere at FrightFest on August 28.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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