Written and directed by José Luis Torres Leiva
Two women, one of them terminally ill, head to a cabin in the woods for what will be their final days together. Yes, Death Will Come And Shall Have Your Eyes is wrenching, heart-clutching, and at times heavier than a dying star, but even if it does concern a person’s anguished crawl towards death and the rippling emotional fallout experienced by her partner, you might still come away feeling uplifted. Hard to believe, I know, but no less true, because of Leiva, whose warm hands and sensibility kindle a light in what can be life’s darkest hour.
The question of finality hangs heavy over Death Will Come And Shall Have Your Eyes, because how can it not? Our idea of time is linear, and people, like consumer goods, are perishable. What’s worse, that end can come in cruel ways for people, and for those who stand to be left behind, knowing supply is finite and that the needle is rapidly closing on “E”, can taint poison those last moments together and erode what once was.
That is the predicament for Ana (Amparo Noguera) as she tends to Maria (Julieta Figueroa) in what will be her last days. Running the gamut from despondent through frustrated to resigned, Figueroa’s performance has the vitality of a volcano and opposite her, Noguera is a glacier, sturdy, but steeling herself against the tremors of grief that pull at her facial features when no one’s looking. A perfect duet.
It’s perhaps no surprise Leiva would spend as much time as possible, as close as possible, to their faces, often placing them next to each in a small frame so we can observe them both. It’s intimate, but it also manages a simple feat that’s the power behind Leiva’s direction: the emphasis on the body, here treated like a temple, a promised land, and for most of the movie’s runtime, a tangible vestige Ana is desperate to hold on to.
Leiva’s film caresses, it performs acts of service, it embraces. The body is a source of comfort, of desire, almost worship, in Leiva’s lens, because it houses the life of those we cherish. There’s so much touching going on Death Will Come And Shall Have Your Eyes that you might suspect Ana to be mapping Maria through her fingertips, hoping her sense of touch can somehow commit to memory an entire person’s being. It’s desperate, but disarming, this Herculean task attempted in the sun’s fading light.
Leiva’s fascination and emphasis on the body is a very immediate metaphor for his artistic concerns with Death Will Come And Shall Have Your Eyes, which deals with something acutely human in how we cope with and honour the memory of those nearest to us. It’s a grand subject, and Leiva goes straight at it by placing people in the center of the frame, together, and in close proximity as if to tease out the truth from the kinetic energy generated between them.
I’m not entirely sure whether his success isn’t down to the performances Noguera and Figueroa, however, because Leiva also sometimes strays from the path with inserted short stories that try to broaden his definition of love, with one story concerning an adopted mother-daughter relationship, and another a once-in-a-lifetime encounter gone to soon. Melodic chord strokes to be fair, but not in harmony with the wider piece.
It makes Death Will Come And Shall Have Your Eyes uneven in places, but where it lands, it unearths some salient points about love, as we see what remains when all else falls away. Thankfully, those feelings are non-perishable and in limitless supply from a well deep within us and the love we can have for another being.