Sponsor

New Release Review - JULIETA

A mother recounts the events leading to her daughter's disappearance.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Pedro Almodovar

Starring: Adriana Ugarte, Rossy de Palma, Emma Suarez, Michelle Jenner



For those expecting and craving the director's trademark theatrics, Almodovar's latest may prove a test of patience, but fans of classic Hollywood 'women's films' will find substance in Julieta's serenity.



Spain's foremost auteur, Pedro Almodovar is one of cinema's greatest Marmite filmmakers. His movies are explicitly fashioned to provoke a reaction, and subtlety is a trait he's rarely accused of. Personally, I find his movies hard work. There's something cynical about their campness, and I always get the feeling Almodovar is setting out to create a cult movie from the ground up; a folly, as filmmakers don't get to make cult movies - that's for audiences to decide.

It's a relief then that his latest, Julieta, sees the Iberian director dial things down for a film that injects mellow melancholy into its melodrama. His regular fans may well feel he's not trying hard enough here, but for those of us who believe his biggest issue is that he usually tries too hard, this is a glimpse of an Almodovar that could have been, though undoubtedly one that wouldn't have caught the attention of cinephiles across the globe. It's a quiet film, but quietly satisfying.


Built around a trio of short stories from Alice Munro's collection Runaway, Julieta introduces us to its titular protagonist, a middle-aged Madrid woman (Emma Suarez) who bumps into a one-time friend of her daughter Antia, who mysteriously disappeared 12 years prior, but now is apparently the mother of three children and living in Switzerland. Having long ago given up hope of being reunited with her daughter, Julieta moves back into her old apartment in the hopes that she may receive correspondence from Antia at that address.

Through the device of Julieta writing down her story, extended flashbacks of her life as a younger woman (played by the wide-eyed Adriana Ugarte) take us from her meeting the man who will become her husband and Antia's father to her daughter's disappearance, with much in the way of paranoia and melodrama in between.


With Julieta, Almodovar indulges his two great loves - Hitchcock and classic Hollywood melodrama. The nods to the former are somewhat disruptive, with a Bernard Herrmann style score that's often out of sync with the onscreen drama, and Rossy de Palma essaying a thinly veiled Mrs Danvers so broadly her performance would fit neatly in Mel Brooks' Hitchcock spoof High Anxiety.

More successful is Julieta's melodramatic aspect. Suarez and Ugarte are perfectly cast, the former's teary eyes filled with sadness in contrast to the wonder of the latter's pupils. In a piece of subtle but clever filmmaking, Almodovar transitions from one actress to the other by having a depressed Ugarte dry her face with a towel, revealing the visage of the older Suarez when she pulls away the towel. Julieta is the sort of role you might have found Joan Crawford stomping her way through in the '40s, and the estranged mother-daughter dynamic bears the influence of the great Mildred Pierce.


Julieta arrives with relatively little fanfare for an Almodovar production. An after-thought in most critics' Cannes reports, it's the sort of placid work that often fails to stand out in the noise of festival favourites. For those expecting and craving the director's trademark theatrics, Almodovar's latest may prove a test of patience, but fans of classic Hollywood 'women's films' will find substance in Julieta's serenity. 

Julieta is in cinemas August 26th.




discussion by