Foremost, I am going to allow myself the indulgent whim of an editorial comment in order to express my disgust for the phrase: "(insert the name of a famous director) presents". In many movies (specially, from the fantastic genre, and even more specially when they were made by unknown directors), we have seen that tricky phrase before the title, like announcing the fact that a famous director was responsible for the film we are about to see. I perfectly understand the commercial utility from that ruse; and I imagine that many young and unknown directors can tolerate the humiliation of the semi-anonymity in exchange of the economical potential which represents the "approval" from a famous director. But even like that, I still think that that is a cheap trick which, above all things, has the "accidental" consequence of fooling to the spectators. I do not know about you, but I know many people who still think that The Nightmare Before Christmas was directed by Tim Burton, or that Guillermo del Toro directed El Orfanato, or that Hostel was directed by Quentin Tarantino. Is that an important problem? I guess it is not. That may not even reach the "problem" category. And I really do not have any solution or suggestion in order to solve the situation. After all, that is another necessary evil from marketing in order to attract more people to the cinema, or to sell more DVDs. But still, that is not enough for me to like it. End of the editorial comment.
I had been thinking all that because Los Ojos de Julia is another film "presented" by a famous director, in this case, the previously mentioned del Toro. I highly doubt the fact that he had a real influence in the making of this film, but his name prominently appears in this film's publicity. Anyway, I think that that simultaneously is an advantage and a disadvantage, because even though that may make more people to see this film, many of them might expect one of the many supernatural fantasies full of special effects that that director uses to make, when the truth is that Los Ojos de Julia is a thriller with slight supernatural touches which may result too modest to the people who might expected to see Hellboy 3 or Pan's Labyrinth 2.
I liked the first half from Los Ojos de Julia very much. The screenplay raises a fascinating and unpredictable mystery, which genuinely kept me in suspense during that while, because it was impossible for me to predict where the story was going. The previously mentioned "supernatural touches" are very well achieved, and they never reach the tiring extremes of "ghost woman with a long black hair" or "vengeful spirit from the past". In fact, there are various elements in order for us to doubt about the existence of supernatural factors in the story, because Guillem Morales' direction keeps on that thin line between the realism and the fantasy, with a lot of atmosphere but at the same time "real". However, all that does not avoid Los Ojos de Julia from having some clichés, from the chases through dark underground corridors which seem ten times longer of the building they are in, to the mysterious old man who warns the main character on the danger she runs if she keeps investigating, without forgetting about the unbelievers policemen who do not take the desperate theories from the main character seriously.
Speaking of which, Belén Rueda makes an excellent work on her dual role of Sara and Julia (even though she only appears as Sara for a few minutes). Her performance is even more appreciated during the second half of the movie, when the tense initial narrative starts to crumble with a sudden twist to the melodrama, anchoring the movie into a much more predictable and conventional formula, which we have already seen in too many North American movies. Fortunately, that did not avoid Rueda from keeping the necessary energy and conviction in order to make that second half entertaining and lead us to an appropriate, but somewhat corny, ending. Anyway, I think it is a shame the fact that Los Ojos de Julia betrayed its excellent first half with a poor second one, but it still has enough positive elements to recommend it, like Rueda's performance, the good atmosphere and the fact that it is entertaining.