Magazine article Screen International

'Julieta': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Julieta': Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr. Pedro Almodovar. Spain, 2016, 96 mins.

Pedro Almodovar's 20th feature is an anxious, tantalising creature which returns the Spanish director to the exclusive world of women he last visited in 2006's Oscar-winning Volver. Full of hints and omens, the sinuous Julieta bears the darker marks of his recent Hitchcockian dramas Broken Embraces and The Skin I live In, even though it's all about a mother. This story of loss and grief casts the eponymous Julieta, played at different ages by Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez, as a grave, fearful, woman who is constantly on the verge of being overwhelmed by her mysterious past.

Almodovar has adapted three short stories by the Canadian writer Alice Munro - Chance, Soon and Silence from the collection Runaway - and carefully stitched them into one elusive film. Although the seams may show on a narrative level, and some may find it over-cooked, this is a luxurious slide into female neurosis, at times a modern-day Rebecca with the incomparable Rossy de Palma in the Mrs Danvers role, at others, an ode to highly-strung grief. Almodovar references Patricia Highsmith by name and Julieta is blatantly constructed on a Strangers On A Train foundation. Yet even as Alberto Iglesias's score adds a discomforting contrapuntal undertow to what we see on screen, Almodovar's top note here turns out to be sorrow.

All the visual elements which have made Pedro Almodovar's work so consistently enticing are boldly represented in Julieta, from strong colour tones to sculpted scenarios, to constant art-world nods - from a Lucien Freud poster to a Sakamoto score book - alongside the infamous wallpaper collection of art director Antxon Gomez. This is classic Almodovar, at home in Madrid for the most part, throwing vibrant colour on the screen in silky reds, blues and greens. It's as if 2014's I'm So Excited never existed in the director's through-line. Marketed tastefully, this is an art-house natural which will sustain his fans. Its enigmatic richness should also award Julieta repeat viewers, on release through El Deseo's usual partners (Spain gets an April 8 opening, followed by France on 18 May, just in time for Cannes. SPC handles in the US, Pathe in the UK).

The titular Julieta, arrestingly presented in the credits as she inhales deeply in a red, lung-like gown, is set to leave Madrid for a life in Portugal with Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti). It's a chance to begin again, says Julieta, played in middle-age by a tentative Emma Suarez, and she won't be coming back to Spain. …

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