Much has been made of the autobiographical nature of Pedro Almodovar’s Volver (that’s boll-bear to you), and that’s always been the way whether it’s in the drug-fuelled sexuality of Pepi, Luci, Bon, or the voyage around his childhood of Bad Education.
With Volver he resurrects his relationship with Carmen Maura in the form of a mother who seems to have been resurrected herself. And for this film Almodovar goes back to his roots – the wind-swept, insane-inducing La Mancha.
Again he plays to his strengths with a kaleidoscope of female characters working for each other. Penelope Cruz is magnificent, showing a depth and subtlety that is so sorely missing from her English language films. Apparently the role was created for her, but she looks suspiciously like Gael Garcia Bernal in Bad Education (check out those hairstyles – we’re talking the transvestite Bernal, of course). Her daughter, played by Yohana Cobo is worth a mention, carrying off that mixture of woman and child, teenage cheek and childlike dependency.
With Volver (to return, or turn back) he’s turned his own back on the farce – it’s telling that the Cruz character doesn’t laugh during the fart scene and the tone is now more bitter than sweet.
Almodovar seems melancholy, but his grasp of character and emotion has tightened. This film might not throw off his label as a director of women, but with such breath-taking performances why would he care?
If Volver is all about Almodovar’s own ‘return’, we can only be grateful that he’s taken us with him.
Volver is showing at arthouse cinemas across D+C now.
Posted by Cptn