With Pedro Almodovar’s latest film Julieta, I was looking for a bit of Vancouver International Film Festival redemption for myself. The day of the screening, I had just left the new film Manchester By The Sea, was feeling a bit crushed emotionally, and looking to get some well-needed family time afterward, choosing to cancel my viewing of Julieta. Now, having seen Julieta, I probably made one of the better choices, seeing that the subject matter would have been a real one-two punch from which the recovery time may have taken me out of the festival experience for the rest of 2016. Once I get into the plot details, you will understand.
The film focuses on the title character, a middle-aged woman looking to make a life-changing move with her new boyfriend from Spain to Portugal when an encounter with her estranged daughter’s former best friend changes everything. In a state of post-trauma fueled depression, she pushes her beau away, moves back to the apartment complex she used to live in with her daughter and begins a letter to her offspring, outlining all the events that led up to the separation of the mother and daughter. These actions may re-traumatize rather than improve Julieta’s fiercely independent attitude that has taken years to regain.
A director that has received acclaim throughout his career, Almodovar has been a filmmaker that has been hit or miss with me. One of his biggest films to date, Volver, failed to connect with me but the last memorable film from him, The Skin I Live In, was an incredible moment of cinema in 2011. Julieta lands somewhere in the middle, an incredibly vibrant film with a stellar lead performance that feels somewhat confused to what it’s trying to be. With the story tone, this is a deeply dramatic movie about the dynamics of relationships in its main character’s life but also has a quality that will throw many viewers off its path.
The score, as well as some of its intentional direction, would leave you to believe that there is a deep mystery to the plot but this is really just an unexplained red herring. My question is why waste the energy to give this a mysterious quality only to completely ignore this aspect when the film comes to a close? In a genre mash that never seems to come to fruition, Almodovar may have buried his main story in the expectations of something more, an undelivered promise of intrigue that may leave the audience, including myself, completely cold. That being said, damn, it is a beautiful thing to behold with all those gorgeous red, green and blue tones! 3/5