…and the quest to see everything

SNAM Short Take: Almodovar’s “Volver”

Before I get to the smarter stuff I just want to share how some of my friends pronounce the title of this movie as ‘VOHLvurr’ when it’s actually ‘vohlVEHR.’ I love North Americans and I especially love any way that I can show that I’m better than I really am.

Volver‘s simplicity probably makes it my favourite out of the measly three Pedro Almodovar movies I’ve seen, the other movies being the morally questionable Hable con Ella and Mala Education, the latter having great performances but being too convoluted for its own good. It has Penelope Cruz in a performance that should have won an Oscar that year, the exported Hollywood star returning to her roots as a believable all around cleaning woman named Raimunda whose chaotic life constantly hangs in the balance. She has to care for a lazy a husband and a blossoming teenage daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), who doesn’t know that – one of the movie’s three spoilery secrets – the man glued to the couch and Canal Plus soccer isn’t her father. Raimunda also surprisingly becomes a restaurateur, feeding a film crew and singing for them. All of this is happening while Almodovar contributes to my belief that Romance-language cinema’s landscape would never be the same without its fart jokes.

The movie begins with Raimunda and her sister Sole (Lola Duenas) polishing their mother Irene’s (Carmen Maura) burial plot, foreshadowing the family’s return to the past. Or rather, return of the past as Sole discovers that Irene is alive and has hidden herself for years. Sole plays this game with her, hiding Irene in plain sight as a Russian immigrant assisting her hairdressing business.

Thankfully the movie doesn’t end with the next door neighbour, cancer-stricken Agustina (Bianca Portillo), revealing Irene’s scandalous secret. Instead, Irene privately talks to Raimunda and voices out another cyclical, inter-generational family secret, her method of doing so somehow lessening the shock and elevating Pedro’s material from soap to a high drama about reconciliation. In essence, an improvement on a special Roman Polanski plot twist. After this heart to heart talk Irene goes to Agustina. Irene is supposed to be the ghost but it’s  Raimunda who slithers away from the door. In a way this is Raimunda passing the torch back, giving her mother a loving goodbye as the older generation must care for each other as an act of contrition. The only way for all women to move on is to do things and pay their dues properly.

7 responses

  1. yaykisspurr

    I saw this in the theater when it came out. I stupidly had a late night the day I went to the theater (I had three jobs at the time) and fell asleep for a half an hour in the middle. The person I went with loved it and I have to say what I did see was very compelling! I need to check this out again. Great little review! Cheers.

    April 1, 2012 at 2:11 am

  2. mettemk

    This was the first Almodóvar film I’ve seen and I was hooked immediately. Even though there were some gruesome parts of the story, the film remained humourous in a way, and all performances were excellent.

    April 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm

  3. wow, lots of spoilers here. but this is definitely my favorite almodovar flick. i think it’s simply exquisite and quirky at the same time. almodovar often dives into the relationship between a mother and her children and i think this one does it best.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:39 pm

  4. yaykisspurr: That’s alright. I slept through a few minutes of Take Shelter.

    mettemk: That’s true. I had to think about the gruesome parts but thankfully it’s all tell (and act) than show in this movies.

    Candice: Funny how you say quirky, because this movie’s given pejoratives like ‘campy’ and ‘soapy.’ But ‘quirky’ shows how those latter qualities I mentioned is how non-Spanish audiences gel to this so much.

    April 3, 2012 at 1:17 am

  5. I need to see so much more Almodovar it’s not even funny, but Pe is lovely here….and as a very off topic aside I sort of hated that best actress slate that year for being the same over and over when Annette Bening Deirdre Burroughs was getting nary a citation.

    As I said, off topic, but I was watching bits of Annette in “Running with Scissors” and I realised the wound had not healed.

    April 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    • I’m assuming that Running With Scissors for Annette felt like American Beauty 2, and that movie was all sorts of weird and not in a cult-ish way. But at least she got an SNL hosting gig out of it. And that Evan Rachel Wood is always awesome.

      I wasn’t following movies too much that year but as far as I know the best actress slate. What year was Breaking and Entering? I kind of like Juliette and Robin in that movie either way. And the slate wasn’t the offensive goatfuck that 2009 and last year was.

      April 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm

  6. Well, yeah, it definitely WASN’T a goatfuck (???) and the slate is actually a good lineup, so I don’t mind. But, the thing is – though – Annette is so excellent as Deirdre and that movie got an unnaturally bad rep AND I feel like people are always harsh on Annette for playing ostensibly harsh characters “who are all the same” (fallacy in such a bad way) it’s annoying. And, I will piss of the masses when I say it was better than the comedic performance that year that did get nominated. Yes, Streep.

    April 3, 2012 at 8:07 pm

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