Pedro Almodovar’s 2004 Hitchcockian effort, Bad Education, proved to be a polarizing force. Volver found plaudits amongst nearly every critic, and that is because amongst the father-stabbing, singalongs and appearances of ghosts, Almodovar has truly found his niche.
Penelope Cruz plays the put-upon mother Raimunda, who, straight after attending the dusty town of La Mancha to attend to her mother’s grave, finds herself husbandless, thanks to her own daughter. So far, so convoluted. But there’s more. Her sister, Sole (Lola Deunas) thinks she’s seeing the ghost of her dead mother, and their friend Augustina tries to find out the truth about her own mother, before time runs out and cancer gets the best of her.
In his deftly-weaved, beautifully portrait of the fairer sex, Almodovar’s touches are bold and brilliant, every scene resonating a vibrancy and unforgettable soul that is very appealing. In the lead role, Penelope Cruz gives one of the best performances of the year. As Raimunda, she is outspoken, risk-taking, and harbours a troubled secret about her daughter. The plot turns, suffice to say are as audacious as that of any Alomodovarian plot, but Volver impacts for its huge heart. You will love this women and care about their every move.
The melodramatic, offbeat style that the film is made suits it perfectly, and Cruz, Duenas, Maura and Portillo give performances that impress and involve. Although the film, written specially for Cruz, essentially belongs to her and the independent, individual character of Raimunda, Maura, as the ghostly figure of her mother, is sad and funny, and perfectly in control of a performance that could easily slip into farce. Portillo is as impressive, and in a key scene involving a decision made on live TV, every nuance of her acting is effective in the heart-wrenching scene.
Regular Almodovar collaborator, Alberto Iglesias, tunes his musical skills to perfection, and, through pizzicato-led interludes and frames saturated with colour, Almodovar’s canny direction shines. He presents us a story as big-hearted and loving as many you’re likely to find this year, and, despite there being some shocking plot twists, you’ll still come out of Volver with a positive outlook on life. There’s a lot of ground covered here, from severing drinks to parental atonement, but every scene has something great to it, thanks to a lovely screenplay that is by turns witty, bright, disturbing and heartbreaking. Mature, beautifully told and wonderfully acted, Volver is worth returning to.