Volver (Almodovar, 2006)

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When director Pedro Almodovar hits one out of the park, it’s a blissful cinematic experience unlike any other. Volver, Almodovar’s latest love letter to the great melodrama’s of his childhood, integrates chance, superstition, and ghosts into a lovely and layered generational story. At the beginning, his female characters appear on the verge of banality. It immediately becomes clear Volver‘s main goal is to resuscitate the passions and desires of the past. With the opening tracking shot gracefully maneuvering along a series of grave stones, Almodovar shows a collective of women cleaning and honoring the resting places of their loved ones. So many female stories waiting to be told. Almodovar’s camera stops on Raimunda (the ravishing Penelope Cruz) and Sole (Lola Duenas), sisters who share a haunted past and a dim outlook on the future. In typical Almodovar fashion, a series of coincidental events will awaken the past (in the form of their mother Irene played by Carmen Maura) and begin a sublime shift toward re-awakening. This film, above all things, will be remembered for it’s ensemble, led by the fascinating dynamic between Cruz, Maura, Duenas and the young Yohana Cobo. Each stands alone as a woman attempting to understand her place in the world, but never forgetting the family ties that bind. While a bit drawn out, Almodovar’s story still feels confident, mature, and heartbreaking. After watching Dark Habits as preparation, it’s amazing how far Almodovar has come as a filmmaker. He doesn’t rely on shock value anymore, just a love for his characters and a genuine eye for visual parallels. Volver is fixated on themes of returning, evolving, loving, and understanding, more so than any of his other features. This could be seen as a rebirth for Almodovar as well, especially after the twisted Noir logic of Bad Education. He’s more in All About My Mother territory here, and Volver is a welcome homecoming.

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