Almodóvar crafted a gem suffused with intimacy, seductive beauty, melancholic pangs, heartbreaking moments, strong feminist undertones and a teasing hint of magic realism, with the charming and engrossing Volver. While it might not appear to have same degree of jaw-dropping bravura as All About My Mother had, it nevertheless formed a fabulous combo with the latter in the way it celebrated womanhood, in its assured use of melodrama to capture the characters’ neuroses and pathos, and in the string of difficult and discomfiting themes it covered, albeit cloaked with a delectable layer of joie de vivre – viz. sexual abuse, pedophilia, unreconciled memories, complex familial bonds, mortality, grief and loss. The intricately weaved tale is centered on its ensemble working-class women characters – Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), a striking, luscious, straight-talking and enterprising woman who, through a mix of smarts, allure, doggedness and culinary skills, must financially survive and also protect her daughter (Yohana Cobo) who’s accidentally committed a murder; her naïve, fidgety sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) who runs a beauty parlour in her tiny apartment; their gentle-natured mother Irene (the former Almodóvar regular Carmen Maura) who died 5 years back in a fire accident and whose ghost has returned to reconnect with her daughters; and Raimunda’s childhood friend Agustina (Blanca Portillo) who’s afflicted with cancer and is searching in futility for her hippie mother who’s been missing for years. Luminously photographed, comprising of a sumptuous score, and set in the La Mancha region where the Spanish giant was born, this sensual, infectious and warm-hearted film contains excellent turns by all, led by a magnificent performance by Cruz in the way she effortlessly complemented toughness of spirit with deep emotional vulnerabilities.
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Family Drama/Ensemble Film