Blind woman Sara (Belen Rueda) lives alone in a remote house, somewhere in rural Spain. One night she goes to her basement and prepares a noose, intending to end her life.

As she stands on a chair and places the noose around her neck, she senses that someone else is in the room with her. It’s then that she has a change of heart, defiantly telling her guest – she clearly knows who it is – that she is not about to give them the satisfaction of watching her commit suicide.

Too late: the off-camera person kicks the chair from beneath Sara’s feet, watching coldly as she gasps her last breaths.

A short while later, Sara’s twin sister Julia (also portrayed by Rueda) comes to visit. She’s accompanied by her husband Isaac (Lluis Homar), as the journey is a daunting one – she hasn’t seen her sibling in six months. She is, then, understandably wracked with guilt when they discover Sara’s body: she had no idea she was so unhappy.

But, as time goes on, Julia becomes convinced in her own mind that Sara couldn’t have taken her own life. Isaac warns her away from investigating further, fearing that she too will end up blind – a rare condition means that here eyesight degenerates whenever she becomes stressed.

But ... have you ever tried to tell a woman what’s best? Of course, Julia starts to probe further, regardless of her own health being put at risk ...

She becomes aware of a young girl who had befriended Sara, who goes by the name of Lia (Andrea Hermosa). She also pays a visit to a group of blind women who used to meet at the local swimming pool with Sara, and overhears them talk of a man the latter had recently started seeing. Slowly but surely, the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together.

But, as the picture gets clearer, the tension mounts for Julia as she inadvertently throws herself into fraught situations – and her sight ironically begins to further deteriorate ...

Director Guillem Morales co-writes with Oriol Paulo, fashioning a moving and well-intended mix of mystery, dark thriller and even love story. The themes of guilt and redemption are rife from the offset, lending the drama true emotional weight. It’s a great, manipulative effect employed with skill by the writing team – and is especially satisfying as it runs parallel to one set-piece after another of steadily mounting suspense.

Some neat visual jaunts help keep things interesting even when the storyline treads water – the film is just shy of two hours in length – such as Julia wearing a blindfold to train herself for loss of vision, or the huddle of sightless hags chasing her out of the swimming pool.

Moments of giallo-inspired grace are also most welcome, as are clear references to Hitchcock. They’re pulled off with aplomb by Morales, although they do admittedly leave the film open to accusations of being derivative. Indeed, it’s not the most original film and veterans of Spanish genre fare may find it a tad formulaic in this regard. But Morales paces and shoots the film with such confidence and style, that it still entertains to a great degree.

That’s in spite of a final third that unfortunately ups too many gears and plummets the film into a comparatively histrionic, silly finale.

JULIA’S EYES looks excellent on Optimum Home Entertainment’s DVD. The 16x9 presentation is correctly formatted in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the transfer accurately conveys the film’s slick, atmospheric look with smooth images and a pleasing amount of depth in the detail. Image-wise, the film recalls the intentional bluey hues of THE ORPHANAGE.

Spanish audio is provided in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, both of which offer impressive playback. English subtitles are well-written and easy to read throughout.

Extras sound interesting on paper but unfortunately are not as generous as they may at first seem.

An interview with Morales is far too short at only two minutes length, and is edited in such a fashion that whatever he says are little more than swift sound-bites.

Interviews with Rueda (3 minutes), Homar (49 seconds!) and a 2–minute chat with co-producer Guillermo Del Toro (PAN’S LABYRINTH; THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE) follow the same studio-set formula and each one is equally unsatisfying as a result.

A "B-Roll" is slightly better, proffering just under 8 minutes of decent behind-the-scenes footage.

Finally, we get the film’s original trailer in all its 2–minute glory.

The disc opens with an animated main menu page which in turns leads to a static scene-selection menu, allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

Derivative and predictable at times it may be, but JULIA’S EYES is also extremely efficient in terms of atmosphere and tension. It’s well worth checking out, and looks great on Optimum’s DVD.

Also available on blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Optimum Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review