To those who say you can’t go home again, the latest film from director Pedro Almodovar is here to prove you wrong.
“Volver” (which means “to return” in Spanish) stars Penelope Cruz as Raimunda, a woman doing her best to get by in a working class city in Madrid. While juggling multiple part-time jobs she manages to be a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and every other role expected of modern day women. And she does it all while looking fabulous.
Cruz nabbed a much-deserved Golden Globe nomination for this role. For those who never paid Cruz much mind, “Volver” proves she’s a modern day Sophia Loren. In fact, Cruz’s cleavage alone could have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Almodovar told Roger Ebert at Cannes Film Festival, “Yes, I am a gay man,” he said, “but I love breasts.”
“Volver” returns to the vulvic roots of films like “Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988) and “All About My Mother “(1999). It is a territory he knows well.
“I was educated by women,” he told Salon.com. “There were no men. They were out working in the fields, I never saw them. The women around me sang, they told extraordinary tales. They were strong, powerful women who had to overcome fate and a great deal of pain. They are the origin of all my work.”
Part drama, part comedy, part ghost story, part film noir, “Volver” revolves around Raimunda and the women in her life: sister Sole (Lola Duenas), daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), friend Agustina (Blanca Portillo), aging aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave) and her mother Irene (Carmen Maura, a familiar face to longtime Almodovar fans), who may or may not be dead.
To Raimunda, her mother has been dead for many years. But Irene is very much alive to the superstitious women in the old world village in La Mancha (a literal homecoming for Almodovar who was born and raised there and got out as fast as he could) where Raimunda was raised by her Aunt Paula and still lives. Irene came back from the dead, they claim, to help her aging sister. How else could Paula, who is nearly blind and losing her mind, get by so well?
When Paula dies Irene comes to live with Sole who hides her from Raimunda. This isn’t hard to do at first because Raimunda is dealing with troubles of her own: mainly her no-good husband’s untimely yet totally justified demise.
What’s a woman with a dead body on her hands to do? Open a restaurant, of course! For those of you thinking of the barbecue in Fried Green Tomatoes, I assure you it’s not like that. Raimunda only uses high quality ingredients and her husband was anything but.
Meanwhile Agustina falls ill and asks Raimunda to ask her mother – who is, mind you, dead – about her own mother who disappeared the same time Raimunda’s mother died. This request sparks a powder keg of family secrets and sorrows.
If it sounds confusing, don’t worry, it is. And yet it isn’t. Like most of Almodovar’s films, it’s not the plot that drives things, it’s the people. “Volver” doesn’t have a weak one in the bunch.
And did I mention that Penelope Cruz is hot?
You don’t have to take my word for it. “This is a confession — don’t tell anyone. You know that I am gay,” Almodovar told Salon. “The last time that I made love to a woman was 22 years ago. With Penelope, I felt physical desire again. I was very horny with her.”
‘Volver’, Rated R
Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Opens Dec. 22
Main Art Threatre, Royal Oak