Review: Julieta

Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta has great regard for its female characters and marks a strong return to form for the director.

The latest from writer/director/producer Pedro Almodóvar comes after a diverse group of previous pics (the psychodramatic Broken Embraces, the wacky ‘body horror’ of The Skin I Live In, the frivolousness of I’m So Excited!), and certainly it’s his best, most mature and least deliberately (even irksomely) ‘camp’ effort in years.

Based upon three stories taken from Alice Munro’s collection Runaway, we open with the 50-something Julieta (Emma Suárez) preparing to leave Madrid for Portugal and life with her partner Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti, sweet if hardly in it). A chance meeting with Bea (Michelle Jenner), however, causes her to immediately cancel her plans, and soon she’s returned to live in the apartment in which she raised her daughter Antía and flashbacks commence as she writes a journal to explain and confess all to her estranged child.

Adriana Ugarte then appears as the Julieta of a surprisingly subtly recreated 1980s, as she meets Antía’s father Xoan (Daniel Grao) on a train and begins a long and passionate relationship that turns complex and stormy (as such things usually do). And soon we’re into deeply ‘Almodóvarian’ (and, ahem, ‘Munro-esque’) themes of love, loss, grief and forgiveness, with scarcely a gaudy Spanish frock or crazily comic sex scene to save us all from the pain.

Obviously Pedro adores his female protagonists (note how his most ‘male’ movie of recent times, I’m So Excited!, is also his weakest and bitchiest), and here Suárez and Ugarte deliver beautiful performances that sometimes, perhaps, feel too close, too passionate and too personal.

While there are obvious references to the ‘Women’s Pictures’ of Douglas Sirk and the disturbed psychologies of classic Hitchcock, and Patricia Highsmith and Ryuichi Sakamoto are name-checked/dropped, there’s no doubt that this is very much, once again, ‘un film de Almodóvar’. And really, how could you possibly mistake it for anything else?

Rated M. Julieta is in cinemas now.

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