Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Spain, 2016. Echo Lake Entertainment, Canal+ France, Cine+, El Deseo, Television Espanola. Screenplay by Pedro Almodovar, based on the stories Chance, Soon and Silence by Alice Munro. Cinematography by Jean-Claude Larrieu. Produced by Agustín Almodóvar, Esther García. Music by Alberto Iglesias. Production Design by Antxon Gomez. Costume Design by Sonia Grande. Film Editing by José Salcedo. Cannes Film Festival Awards 2016. National Board of Review Awards 2016. Toronto International Film Festival 2016. Washington Film Critics Awards 2016.
On the eve of her move to Portugal, Julieta finds out a piece of information about her daughter that inspires her to cancel her plans and stay in Madrid. She sits down at her diary and writes out her story, of meeting her husband, having a child and the eventual demise of their relationship that led to her daughter disappearing for more than a decade. Adapting Alice Munro’s Runaway trilogy, director Pedro Almodovar brings his trademark aesthetic and emotional zest to a story about people constantly missing opportunities to connect and perpetually losing touch with each other. Almodovar struggles to find the warmest contact points of this tale, fashioning some strong characters, like Rossy de Palma‘s harsh housekeeper, who don’t always reach their full narrative potential but do provide a fascinating combination of styles: Munro’s prose, which is usually focused on failed communication and unspoken tension, couldn’t possibly be further from Almodovar’s honest confessions and open embraces, the result of this mix something quite charismatic to watch. Smooth direction and a number of unforgettable sequences are where the film has its strength, imagery like a stag running alongside a moving train or the pleasures of furtive sex with a new lover remain in your mind like a beautiful dream. The romantic pairing between Adriana Ugarte and handsome Daniel Grao provides more of a nucleus than the mother-daughter conflict, Almodovar’s trying to get shades of Mildred Pierce out of the central relationship not fully successful, while switching between Suarez and Emma Suárez as the title character not just at different ages but different personalities a la Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire is more decadence than the narrative can sustain. That said, the film is never less than an engrossing pleasure and feels delicate and poetic throughout.