A man comes to the house of his birth mother unannounced. Ostensibly seeking answers for his daughter’s school project to put together a family tree, he’s met with hostility at first.
But as they talk, years of emotion come to the surface — as does a startling revelation that leaves both mother and son reeling when it comes out in the open.
Directed and written by Nick Scown, this short drama is essentially a two-hander of a man seeking answers that he’s long been missing from his life, built upon a foundation of sensitive writing and performances that carefully lays out the emotional stakes that lead to an ultimately devastating conclusion.
The dialogue ebbs and flows between connection and hostility, captured with a clean visual simplicity that emphasizes the psychological chasm between the two. The characters occupy the frame in sometimes skewed, off-center positions, reflecting the emotional discomfort of their interaction, and the few times they share the shot, they often are staged to emphasize the divide between them.
The mother is alarmed and even hostile to the young man on her doorstep, with an intensity that surprises both the son and viewers. Yet the son persists in getting answers, and finds himself inside her sparsely, almost sadly furnished home. Despite her vehement obstinacy, the son shares part of his story with his birth mother, including pictures of his daughter.
Actor Ethan Embry — well known to audiences for his work in more lighthearted shows like “Grace and Frankie” and “Sneaky Pete,” and 90s teen films like “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “Empire Records” — offers up an anguished, raw performance as the son. Actor Romy Rosemont as the birth mother navigates a difficult inner tension. She wants to know more about the son she gave up at birth, and there are moments where viewers see flickers of a yearning curiosity within her. But there’s something about seeing him that unsettles her.
What that “something” provides the final reveal of “Those Eyes,” the answer to the mystery that both the son and the audience seek. It’s a tragic and explosive one, and the film leaves the impact of it inconclusive and unresolved, unable to be packed away into a tidy resolution. Instead, the emotion of it leaves us, and the characters, flattened, sitting among the psychological wreckage — and perhaps understanding why some questions are best left unanswered until both parties are ready to grapple with the aftereffects.