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Almodóvar returns to what he does best: exposing the deliciously dirty incongruities, fallacies and virtues of human beings; this time he gets under the skin of women in an unusually sober and austere drama

What would you do if your daughter departed for good without saying a word? The inability to verbalise feelings and to communicate with your loved ones can have disastrous consequences. In Almodóvar latest flick Julieta, the eponymous protagonist veers from one tragedy to the next, having to juggle blame, guilt, isolation and avoiding making the same mistakes that eventually drove her to depression. Young Julieta is played by Adriana Ugarte, while the older version is delivered by Emma Suárez (who looks a lot like the late German actress Susanne Lothar) – both are relatively unknown stars.

Julieta is above everything else a tribute to women. Nearly all of the movie characters are females and the movie is based on three short stories by Canadian writer Alice Munro. This is the most profound examination of the female soul – in all of its splendour and contradictions – that Almodóvar has conducted since The Flower of my Secret (1995). Almodóvar, who grew in La Mancha surrounded mostly by women (his mother and their neighbours) is keen to celebrate the gender which he seems to admire the most.

Those looking for novel twists and subversive antics, might be disappointed with Julieta. There is absolutely nothing new in the movie, nothing Almodóvar hasn’t tried before. It marks instead a return to the subject of women, after the slapstick I’m So Excited (2013) and the hybrid horror-flick/gender-bender The Skin I Live In (2011). The excellence of Julieta is in the narrative complexity, the multilayered plot, the elegant photography, the lurid and plush colours (particularly red) and the superb acting. Ugarte and Suárez blend beautifully into each other, and both the physical and emotional morphing are entirely credible.

Julieta lives in Madrid and is about to move to Portugal with her partner Lorenzo. During a chance encounter on the street with her daughter Antía’s childhood friend Beatriz, she learns that her estranged daughter now lives in Switzerland. Her life then collapses, as she rekindles the longing for long-gone Antía. The movie then moves back to Julieta’s youth, and we learn of the many tribulations in her life, including two deaths for which she feels responsible.

Julieta is an itinerant movie. Time moves back and forth, so do emotions and even the geography. The movie is so fluid that it travels between three short stories (all three written by Munro), and the final result never bursts at the seams. Julieta is from Andalucía, but she moves to Galicia in order to marry Xoán, and then to Madrid with her daughter. DMovies asked Almodóvar during the UK premiere of the movie at the BFI South Bank the reason behind the constant geographic moves, which are so common in his movies. He explained that, in the case of Julieta, he used geographic extremes of Spain in order to emphasise the isolation of the characters in Munro’s short stories.

Almodóvar’s 20th movie Julieta premiered at the BFI South Bank on August 11th, followed by a debate with Pedro Almodóvar the following day. It will in movie theatres across the country on August 26th.

You can watch the film trailer below:

By Victor Fraga - 13-08-2016

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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