Volver (2006)

by | Mar 31, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Volver (2006)

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas
Written and Directed by Pedor Almodóvar
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen for 16:9
Audio: Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English
Extras: Commentary with Pedor Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz; The Making of Volver; Interviews with Pedor Almodóvar, Penélope Cruz, and Carmen Maura; Tribute to Penélope Cruz; Photo Gallery; Poster Gallery.
Length: 121 minutes
Rating: ****½ 

Different directors have their specialties. Some, like Martin Scorsese, handle men and their concerns to perfection. In a different way, a director like Clint Eastwood tackles the notions of male alienation and honor. But for a male director to handle the intrinsic qualities, concerns, and issues of women in a believable and realistic fashion, that’s more rare. Woody Allen has had success in that arena, filtered through his own sensibilities, but Pedro Almodóvar is practically unique in his ability to bring to the screen women characters that live and breath with a life and independence all their own. In fact, women often fare much better in his movies than his male characters. “Volver” is his latest achievement as a filmmaker, serving as both writer and director.

“Volver” is a drama that examines the relationships, violence, betrayals, and reconciliations within a family. It is also a bit of ghost story and a murder mystery, as well as including the age-old plot device of, “What do we do with the dead body?” Actually, I’m not going to say much about the actual plot. The less you know, the more surprised you’ll be, and the better off you’ll be. That said, the story centers around Raimunda, played by Penélope Cruz, her daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), her sister Sole (Lola Dueñas), and her tragically deceased mother Irene (Carmen Maura). Cruz, of which “Volver” is your fourth film with Almodóvar, plays Raimunda with a fiery spirit reminiscent of Sophia Loren in her prime. Particularly in American movies, Cruz’s acting ability has been largely underutilized. In this film, she really comes into her own, displaying a surprising range and depth of emotions with verve. Carmen Maura, a veteran Spanish actress from Almodóvar movies like “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988) and “Matador” (1986), is a calm and solid presence that adds mystery, pathos, and solidity to the film. She’s the ground to Cruz’s fire.

Almodóvar directed the film with a steady hand. He spent three months with the cast in rehearsals before filming started, and that level of comfort and polish definitely shows in the finished film. The cast had the time to inhabit their characters. Almodóvar had the time to iron out every plot element, refine the script, and choreograph every movement in the ensemble cast and complex plot. Though the film deals with serious subject matter, the overall impression it leaves isn’t one of darkness and despair. “Volver” is a tribute to the strength of women and their ability to survive. And it shows they know how to handle a dead body. Highly recommended.

– Hermon Joyner


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