Sole (Lola Dueñas), Paula (Yohana Cobo) and Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) are reunited in the Pedro Almodóvar film Volver. (Sony Pictures Classics/Mongrel Media)
After probing the male psyche in Bad Education (2004) and Talk To Her (2002), Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar returns his attention to female concerns with Volver, a subdued (for the flamboyant Almodóvar, anyway) melodrama that calls to mind women’s pictures of the 1940s and '50s. Volver — which means “to come back” — also marks Almodóvar's reunion with his longtime muse, the sublime Carmen Maura, with whom he had a very public falling out following Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Maura plays Irene, a village housewife who comes back from the dead to care for her sister (Chus Lampreave), and to make amends with her daughter Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), a working-class Juanita-of-all-
trades living in Madrid with her teenage daughter (Yohana Cobo) and layabout husband (Antonio de la Torre). Costumed like a young Sophia Loren, with a prosthetic tush to enhance her wiggle, a revelatory Cruz inhabits a character who is at once steely and vulnerable, spirited and wounded. The film may belong to her — and, boy, does Almodóvar love to linger on her cleavage and tear-filled doe eyes — but she’s evenly matched by the rest of the superb, mostly female cast, especially Lola Duenas as her skittish hairdresser sister, Sole. Although it lacks the camp effervescence of Almodóvar’s earlier comedies or the emotional wallop of All About My Mother and Talk to Her, Volver is still a deeply satisfying study of the bonds of mother-love.
Volver screens at TIFF Sept. 8 and 9.
Rachel Giese writes about the arts for CBC.ca.
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