Here was a film to think and talk about: how many themes did you detect, and what were they? An Argentine writer, winner of the Nobel in literature, returns to his small home town in the country – why? to bask in his glory, to refresh his imagination, to experience nostalgia? – or does he? (As an introduction to Argentine cinema, this was a nice companion to Neruda.) People greet him on the surface, then turn petty and hostile. They don’t understand him, but does he understand them? He bumbles along in his world of fiction (Oscar Martinez won the Argentine Oscar for Best Actor), finding that he can’t go home anymore – or can he?
No director working today portrays women as well and as beautifully as the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Penelope Cruz has been perhaps his most famous muse (in five Almodovar films), but in Julieta he works with Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte (the young Julieta) to stunning effect. One or the other is almost always on screen, framed artistically, with blond hair that denotes their age or their psychological condition. Based, somehow, on three stories by Alice Munro, the plot is never frothy, nor so melodramatic that you lose touch with the reality of the people and their feelings, albeit little that is recounted is personally familiar. By going back and forth between the two characters – Julieta is writing her daughter about her past – we never tire of either one, and long to see how engagingly beautiful Almodovar will make her next. The ending lacked conviction and left me hanging, but life doesn’t neatly wrap itself up, either.
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