Volver (2006)

Almodovar handles with dexterity a range of emotions in this intriguingly-structured drama.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Pedro Almodovar
2006 | Spain | Comedy/Drama | 121 mins | 2.35:1 | Spanish
NC16 (passed clean) for some sexual content and language

Cast: Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Duenas
Plot: After her death, a mother returns to her hometown in order to fix the situations she couldn’t resolve during her life.
Awards: Won Best Actress & Screenplay (Cannes); Nom. for Best Leading Actress (Oscars)
International Sales: Focus Features

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Review #126

(Reviewed in theatres – first published 6 Mar 2007)

Spoilers: No

Volver is Pedro Almodovar’s most accessible film to date, exploring issues such as communication problems and the common generation gap that most societies face.  The impressive thing about the film lies in the structure of the plot. Almodovar tells his story in a way that subtly hints at the issues mentioned above, while packaging it like a gentle soap opera.

Penelope Cruz looks right at home in Spanish surroundings, giving a polished performance as a mother living a problematic life.  The rest of the cast lends steady support to Cruz, with Carmen Maura giving an emotional display.

“Don’t say that, Raimunda, or I’ll start crying. And ghosts don’t cry.”

The plot gets more complex along the way, requiring nothing less than full attention to be able to grasp what the film is trying to impart to the viewer. It starts out with cultural vibrancy, then slowly (and unexpectedly) becomes creepy.  But when matters become clearer, the suspense disperses, and the drama sets in.

Unlucky not to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, Volver is probably not going to generate a lot of buzz compared to other foreign offerings in the same year like Pan’s Labyrinth.  Nevertheless, Almodovar crafts his work like an old master, ensuring that the film remains to be one of the more enriching foreign films to be released in 2006.

Grade: A-




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