San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Almodóvar Weaves Story from the Inside Out

Are you superstitious? Do you believe in ghosts? Would you come back from the beyond to fix a family situation left unresolved?

These questions might cross your mind when thinking about life, death and family, and it’s topics such as these that Pedro Almodóvar addresses in his new movie, “Volver” (“Return”). The Spanish director (“Talk to Her,” “Bad Education”) has a tendency to make emotionally charged films with intricate plots relating things such as sexuality, life, death and sugarsprinkled donuts.

In a small town in Spain, strange and tragic events unfold that make the ghost of a mother (Carmen Maura) return to the lives of her two daughters (Penélope Cruz and Lola Dueñas) after her funeral. As the story progresses, you are thrown deep into the characters’ lives, and you identify with them almost immediately. As the plot evolves further, events unfold in a manner reminiscent of the blooming of a flower – slowly and beautifully.

The audience is carried through the plot’s intricacies magnificently, which is no surprise, this being one of Almodóvar’s gifts.He weaves the story from the inside out, naturally showing us the outside first and finally revealing the core of what he wanted to convey – which may differ considerably from the first impression, the way a flower in full bloom looks very different from a bud. This artistry is quite evident in the film, and it’s also why good artists such as Almodóvar take their time making movies.

The acting is grandiose. Penélope Cruz shines as a strong, hardworking woman in love with the simple pleasures of life. She has family problems, of course. She visits her sister frequently, is a full-time wife for her less-than-grateful husband and is not afraid of asking for help when she needs it.

Cruz’s character gives the movie a wonderful dynamic; you may just find yourself grinning inadvertently when she appears onscreen, whether you’re a fan or not.

Five or six years ago, a movie like this one may not have received Hollywood endorsement.

Thanks to a creative draft that seems to be wafting through the movie city nowadays (or, hopefully, a shift in our tastes), producers have turned to foreign films as well as TV remakes, comic books and other sources.

“Volver” is released for mainstream audiences by Focus Features, a Hollywood studio that backs independent films. It’s a fine film that you should not miss, whether you’re a fan of mainstream movies or independent films, or simply happen to like anything by Almodóvar.


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