Unravel the mystery
Director: Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her) Starring: Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte, Rossy DePalma, Daniel Grau, Inma Cuesta, Michelle Jenner Verdict: Keep looking back to keep moving forward
The 20th film in the long, diverse and admirably erratic career of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is a sombre, thematically complex adaptation of three inter-linked short stories by Canadian author Alice Munro.
Now 67, Almodovar has clearly mellowed as a storyteller – perhaps even slowed down – with the quirky freneticism of his signature works now all but gone.
A twisting, turning, time-shifting narrative tracks the movements of the title character (played in the present day by Emma Suarez, and in 1980s flashback mode by Adriana Ugarte, both captivating) as we are drawn inside the mystery that has come to define her entire life.
The story begins with Julieta about to depart her home town of Madrid for Portugal, probably never to return. Then she gets word of her only child’s whereabouts, the first news she has had of her adult daughter in more than a decade.
The move to Portugal is put on hold, and Julieta starts combing over memories she has selectively forgotten over time.
Why did Julieta’s daughter disappear without warning so many years ago?
Is this a case of sad, yet simple, mother-and-child estrangement?
Or something much more complicated, as unfathomable as it is unforgivable?
Almodovar releases both relevant clues and false leads into the tale with a Hitchcock-like control that can sometimes frustrate, yet never isolate the viewer.
The plentiful deployment of flashbacks can sometimes get more than a little confusing, too.
However, Almodovar’s famous visual flair more than compensates for any temporary problems along the way. No one even gets close when it comes to using colour, texture and camera placement to distract and delight.