Following the apparent suicide of her blind sister, Julia (Rueda), whose eyesight is also failing her, suspects that something far more sinister was behind the death. Responding to her intuition it quickly becomes apparent that she may in fact be right and a dangerous mystery begins to unravel. However, with blindness rapidly setting in, the odds of finding the truth are not stacked in her favour.

In the past few years Spanish cinema has become the home of some truly great films. Titles such as Pans Labyrinth, REC, The Orphanage, Timecrimes, Biutiful and The Skin I Live In are just a handful of films that are thrilling, captivating and highly entertaining. Julia’s Eyes is no exception.

Presented by Guillermo Del Toro and written and directed by Guillem Morales, this movie is a superbly executed thriller with bags of mystery that will keep you guessing right up to the film’s climax – an intense race for survival.

This film would have been great even if the main character had the use of all her senses but the level of suspense, and the empathy levels of the audience, is immediately raised when you consider that Julia, for the most part, can not see. This not only makes her an extremely vulnerable person in the circumstances but it means that you as the viewer can’t help but want to guide her and help through the danger. Alas, we can not, thus making the whole thing even more tense.

As far as murder mysteries and thrillers go, Julia’s Eyes follows the usual conventions of distraction, subterfuge and doubt. They are tried and tested techniques that work brilliantly in the hands of Morales. But he has an ace up his sleeve. If the main character can’t see everything then why should the audience? And this is the film’s most powerful and frustrating aspect.

All of those surrounding Julia dismiss her claims of murder and put it down to the grief of losing her sister. We, however, know from the outset that she has cause to be alarmed and as she embarks on her own investigation we have no choice but to support Julia. She is stalked by a shadowy figure, seemingly invisible to everyone, as she begins to put the pieces together and when her eyesight finally fails, a subsequent operation to restore it places her in even more danger. It’s at this point in the film that Morales chooses to hide the face of one of the major characters, which at a stage where you start suspecting everyone proves to be highly effective. Whether it be through screen positioning or camera movement, we just can’t see the persons that Julia becomes dependent on. The impact of this is two fold. Firstly, the sheer need to see those involves becomes increasingly frustrating, which ultimately increases our empathy with a now blind Julia. Secondly, it adds so much more mystery and tension to the film.

When all, including the murderer of Julia’s sister, are finally revealed, we then have to sit through a suspense filled chase as Julia tries to escape the clutches of a killer. I’ll leave that down to you to watch for yourself, suffice to say it’s an extremely clever reveal and chase. However, the very end of the film does let it down ever so slightly as it ventures towards being ‘hammy’. That said, it is a minor moment that doesn’t ruin the rest of film.

Belena Rueda, who you may recognise as Laura from The Orphanage, puts in another superb performance as Julia. She embodies the vulnerability required but holds herself in her such a way that you can’t help but believe that there is hidden strength and courage there somewhere. With Julia’s particular disability in mind, there is never a moment when you doubt Rueda’s portrayal of someone who can’t see, it’s respectful and believable.

Julia’s Eyes marks the second full-length feature film of Guillem Morales, his first being The Uninvited Guest in 2004. His style of shooting is atmospheric and he plays with light and dark expertly in this film in particular. Subtle techniques is what makes this film so effective and his already proficient skill in their use is undoubtedly just going to become better and better with each film he does.

Overall, Julia’s Eyes is a brilliant thriller that checks all the boxes of what you’d expect and want from this genre with bundles more to offer. It feels classy and sophisticated whilst remaining extremely intense and suspenseful. Unless you have a heart of stone, you will automatically bond with Julia and this will only intensify emotions. If a sentimental ending is the price for a superb thriller then so be it. And I’d still tip.