In March 2006, the international film community welcomed the newest addition to Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s ever-growing family of cinematic brilliance. With films such as “All About My Mother,” “Talk To Her” and “Bad Education” already heralding the artistic and unparalleled genius of this “man from La Mancha,” “Volver” is simply the validation.
“Volver,” for those of us who slept away the finer moments of high school Spanish class or perhaps bailed on Spanish altogether by taking French or German, means to return. Let the record show that “Volver” the movie is exactly that: a return. This film is the return of a near forgotten visage of what was once cinema paradiso, everything celluloid was meant to be.
It is an homage to the colorful world of Hollywood in the ’50s, complete with superb narrative vision and a Spanish bombshell hugely reminiscent of Sophia Loren in her glory days. “Volver” is proof to the skeptics who contend that long dead are the creative masterminds of old, and attests to the potent creativity of our own age. This film graciously falls into place as being one of the finest Spanish exports since paella and perhaps Picasso.
Thematically, in true Almodovar fashion, “Volver” is saturated with dynamic characters, intense plotlines and colorful landscapes. Set in both “the burbs” of Madrid and a small village in the La Mancha region of Spain, a place Almodovar calls home, the film explores the familial bonds between three generations of women who struggle with daily life, death, and the shocking secrets of the hereafter.
Penelope Cruz does a fantastic job as Raimunda, a working-class mother haunted by an unsettling family secret. Together with her sister Sole (Lola Duenas), her daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), and her close friend Agustina (Blanca Portillo), Raimunda not only uncovers the truth surrounding what can only be described as the family ghost, but also discovers some important truths about herself.
Following a whirlwind of plot twists and turns, from an unexpected murder to the return of an unexpected guest, “Volver” depicts the unadulterated, unabashed fortitude of women in numbers and culminates in a triumphant display of sisterhood.
Cinematically, Almodovar takes his audience into the heart of the complicated and oftentimes misunderstood world of women, entertaining us on a roller-coaster ride of life’s ups and downs, through intense bits of happiness and to the very brink of utter despair. Together with his characters, we the audience experience a kind of cathartic self-awareness as only Almodovar is capable of creating on film.
Overall, “Volver” proves to be a relatively benign mix of murder, mystery, and scandal; for all intensive purposes, a classic melodrama. This film comes fully equipped with droll humor, gratuitous boob shots, and of course, a kind of violence that Hitchcock would appreciate. Combined with the sultry looks of Spanish senorita Penelope Cruz Volver is everything the American public relishes in movies.
With the help of this predominantly all-female cast combined with a little something-something from the genius of Almodovar, Cruz delivers her best performance to date, proving to the world that this Spanish actress is the real deal. Can we say “hello, Oscar?”
In my book, “Volver” is the film to watch out for at the Academy Awards, and steps up to bat as numero uno on this year’s must see movie list. But please, don’t take my word for it. Go out and see for yourself. Bravo, Pedro. Bravo indeed.
Alexandra Bezdikian is a journalism senior with a religious studies minor. Her column, Pop Tart, covers a range of artisitc mediums and trends in American pop culture. Send any questions or recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.