reminds us again of his potency as a filmmaker with the sprawling, marvelous melodrama Volver
, an engrossing tale--funny and tragic and even surreal--of three generations of women.
For two hours of complete cinematic escape, Almodovar takes you right into the lives of fictional characters: hardworking, cleavage-bearing Raimunda (Penelope Cruz in the best performance of her career), her older sister Sole (Lola Duenas), the talking and lifelike ghost of their dead mother (Carmen Maura), Raimunda's long-haired, petulant teenage daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), a blind and beloved grandmother, their cancer stricken neighbor Augustina, and various local women who provide necessary hunks of pork and cookies, important village gossip and timely burial skills.
Penelope Cruz in VolverImage © Sony Pictures Classics
Vovler is rich in so many ways. The performances are funny, warm, and true to life; earlier this year at Cannes, the festival jury made an unprecedented decision to give the best actress award to the entire female ensemble cast.
The small and palpable details of life in small village of La Mancha and a working class neighborhood of Madrid fill every frame: from the twisting cobblestone streets to the cramped interior of Sole's small apartment where women in need of hair care come and go. Almodovar's steady composer Alberto Iglesias composed an evocative, melodic score to gently carry the story along. Finally, it's the story itself, so intricate and fast-moving and vivid, that you find yourself wishing for just one quiet moment--just one moment for the film's central character, Cruz's competent and controlled Raimunda, to take a break. To let her breathe.
When Raimunda finally does take her well-deserved moment of rest, she breaks every heart (on the screen and in the audience) singing a song of joy and despair, capturing it both with force, joy and despair. This is exactly how Almodovar succeeds. Volver has it all: comedy, drama, Penelope Cruz, death and unexpected life, perfectly strung together with a little old fashioned intrigue. See for yourself. I will give away nothing more.