TL;DR – A film that presents a lot of interesting questions, but I am not sure it answers everything it sets out to do.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
One of the great things about World Cinema is that you can explore whole worlds you don’t know about and see them come alive. I have never been to Brazil or Nigeria, but through cinema, I can experience those stories, the pain and the joy.
So to set the scene, Amadi (O.C. Ukeje) has been tasked by his family to fly across from Lagos, Nigeria to São Paulo, Brazil. He is in the unfamiliar country for one reason, to find out what happened to his estranged older brother Ikenna (Chukwudi Iwuji). What makes things worse is when he discovers that the story that Ikenna has told his family is a lie, and if he does not find out what happened he might have to take on the mantle of the older brother as is required in Igbo society.
I am going to start with the fact that as someone from Australia, I do not know if the film represents Igbo society or Brazil. So I am proceeding in this review under the assumption that they do in this regard unless I discover otherwise.
At the core of the narrative is Amadi’s search for his brother. It is a search that always asks more questions than it answers as we learn more and more of Ikenna’s new life. It is a world full of lies about his past and misdirections about his future. There is a lot of pain as it seems like he just disappeared out of thin air, but more than this there is the world he created around him. First, he was going by Charlie not Ikenna, but more than that, the story he created of his past is like a fantasy version of the original, a fantasy where he is an only child. What happens when someone creates a parallel universe of their past, one that excludes you from the narrative? This adds to the pressure that is being placed on him from his family. The very same pressure that might have pushed his brother away in the first place.
Because Amadi does not speak Portuguese, there are all these interesting language issues that he comes across. This hurts his hunt in places when it becomes a barrier to communication, but helps him in other places because his English can open up doors and maybe love. Another of the themes across the films is that of reincarnation. Amadi is said to be the reincarnation of Ikenna, the weird math Ikenna is meant to be exploring is trying to pull apart the notion of gravity and its relationship with time. There are religious references sprinkled throughout, including Ecclesiastes 3:2 “a time to be born and a time to die”. Add to this, holograms, musical scores, random number generators, League of Legends, and you get a very odd story. The ending plays this up, even more, creating a very odd and unsettling moment.
While this presents an interesting story, it is not without its frustrations. The story meanders and weaves around the question of what happened to Ikenna, which while intriguing at the start, the answers are not forthcoming, and there is only so much obfuscation that you can take. There are also these odd insert scenes that don’t help the narrative and actively hurt it. One of these is when they see a dude across the street watching pornography. Putting aside it is entirely unnecessary to the plot, it is the only reason that the rating for this film is as high as it is, and honestly, they are lucky that it didn’t get an R18.
In the end, do we recommend Shine Your Eyes? Well, that is a hard one to say. I did find the film to be engaging in places, but I am not sure I would say it was compelling. It is a series of individual moments that work, but I am not sure it works as a whole. If you liked Shine Your Eyes, I would also recommend Nobody Knows I’m Here (Nadie Sabe Que Estoy Aquí).
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Shine Your Eyes
Directed by – Matias Mariani
Written by – Chika Anadu, Francine Barbosa, Maíra Bühler, Matias Mariani, Júlia Murat, Chioma Thompson & Roberto Winter
Music by – Flemming Nordkrog
Cinematography by – Léo Bittencourt
Edited by – Isabello Dedieu & Luisa Marques
Production/Distribution Companies – February Films, MPM Film, Primo Filmes, Tabuleiro Filmes, Taiga Filmes & Netflix
Starring – OC Ukeje, Indira Nascimento, Paulo André, Ike Barry & Chukwudi Iwuji,
Rating – Australia: MA15+;