Un­ravel the mys­tery

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

JULI­ETA (M)

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.

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