Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Volver - 9:30 a.m. - Ryerson Theatre, 9/9

I'll admit that I'm late to the Pedro Almodovar party. I first heard of him as a teenager in the late 80s but all I heard was that "sex" was associated with him. While as a teenager that may have been tempting, the fact that the movies were subtitled was more persuasive to keep me away. 20 years and three TIFFs later, I "get" foreign films. But when looking through the program guide to decide what to see, I was having problems. I didn't "know" anyone that wasn't involved with martial art films. Till I saw a name I had heard of.....Almodovar. So I saw "Talk to Her" and have been hooked ever since.

Volver was one of the few films that I did not get tickets to with my pre-order. But it was one that I was NOT going to miss for several reasons. 1) It's an Almodovar film. 2) It's a return to "lighter" fare of his earlier works. 3) Penelope Cruz, whom I adore even if she must have had a mental burp when she was briefly involved with Tom Cruise. 4) The film won best screenplay and best actress (for Cruz) at Cannes 2006. So I got up at 5:30 a.m. and waited in line for the RUSH tickets.

Volver, which translate to "To Return", is about two sisters who are dealing with, in different ways, the death of their parents in a fire three years earlier. The film opens with the sisters tending to the graves of their parents in the countryside. Upon returning home, we learn that Raimunda (Cruz) is married to an unemployed laborer with a daughter from a different man, and works as a chef to keep the family together. Sole (Lola Duenas) operates an illegal hairdresser parlor out of her apartment and has not been lucky in love. It is Sole who is the first to be visited by their departed mother. Complications ensue when mom decides to move in with Sole. Then, because Almodovar can't help himself, there is a murder, a coverup, secrets from loved ones are revealed, and old wounds are healed. All in nice tidy package.

The film stays relatively breezy in its tone despite the weightier subject matters that pop up. And the film moves briskly along as well. Cruz is the standout and the camera loves her. Her steely determination to keep things together as everything around her falls apart is the crux of the audiences support. Duenas is also solid as the sister who never questions "how" her mother has returned, but is simply thankful that it has happened. The film is about motherhood and how family draws its strenght from it. The movie will obviously play well b/c of the director and its star's name value. But it could reach a wider audience since the "controversy" factor, which Almodovar films typically have, is really non-existant.