Nurture versus nature is a ripe topic for plunder in genre cinema. Are some people born evil or are they just a product of the world around them? In Nicolas Pesce’s feature debut, The Eyes of My Mother, we are faced with the central protagonist of Francisca (beautifully played by Kika Magalhaes). As we view her childhood, coming-of-age and adulthood from afar, we’re left with more questions than answers regarding her depravity.

As a child, Francisca (Olivia Bond) is taught by her mother (Diana Agostini) that the eyes are the repository of the soul. After Charlie (Will Brill), a door-to-door salesman, murders her mother, she cuts out his eyes and tongue and keeps him in the barn. This is done with the implicit consent of her father (Paul Nazak). When her father passes, she is left to fend for herself. However, she has her only friend (Charlie) to keep her company.

Shot in melancholic black and white using long takes and a static camera, The Eyes of My Mother emits a palpable sense of wrongness throughout. We are voyeurs in Francisca’s world, helpless to intercede and given no indication of her motives. Her actions are very matter-of-fact interspersed with short bursts of bloody violence. The Eyes of My Mother is an intriguing art-house horror which presents the facts without dwelling on motive.

The Eyes of My Mother is out in cinemas from Friday.