Julieta

 

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The fires are banked down in the film that finds Pedro Almodóvar returning to emotional drama.

 
Julieta

 

The prolific Almodóvar, now tending to leave off the name of Pedro, returns to the fray after a longer pause than usual following his uneasy side-step into the broad camp comedy of I'm So Excited! (2013). This new work brings him back to drama with strong roles for actresses at its centre, but it only half embraces the melodramatic element present in many of his earlier works. This may be because his screenplay draws on three short stories by the Canadian writer Alice Munro, although the film is set in Madrid and nothing in it suggests an amalgamation of originally distinct tales. Even so, the adaptation may have involved problems that are only partially solved. Julieta is watchable and very professionally made (Jean Claude Larrieu is an adroit new photographer for Almodóvar but he sticks with his frequent collaborators for the editing - José Salcedo - and for the  music score - Alberto Iglesias), yet it is also the case that this film is not truly memorable.

 

Nevertheless, the opening of Julieta is particularly successful as the eponymous troubled heroine (Emma Suárez) breaks off from her devoted lover, Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti), when a chance meeting with her daughter's friend, Beatriz (Michelle Jenner), brings to the fore once more her concerns about the daughter. We are suitably intrigued by all this so that when Julieta addresses a confessional letter to her absent child, Antía, we want to learn more. This leads into a long flashback rendering Julieta's past history and starting when she fell in love with Antía's father, a fisherman (Daniel Grao). Thus we encounter the 25-year-old Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) and her subsequent history over thirty years or so is episodically revealed.

 

The tone that has been set seems to promise revelations, but the story that unfolds and which features Antía at various ages, the younger Beatriz and others too (including a brief but key role for Almodóvar favourite Rossy de Palma) lacks the high drama that might have been expected. Or at least that is so until the last twenty minutes. Then hidden layers are revealed suggesting melodrama at last, but at second hand since it is all a matter of dramatic disclosures being revealed through what is said. The film is well cast but its flirtation  with melodrama while keeping the temperature low leads to a work which, decent enough, doesn't seize one emotionally. That's because it never quite achieves the depth needed in substitution for the whole-hearted relish which a more melodramatically toned film might have used to advantage. Admittedly, it would seem that Almodóvar was attempting something different here, but the outcome while acceptable shows that he is no Ibsen.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Dario Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, Pilar Castro, Nathalie Poza, Susi Sánchez, Joaquín Notario, Rossy de Palma.

 

Dir Pedro Almodóvar, Pro Agustin Almodóvar and Esther Garcia, Screenplay (based on the stories Destination, Soon and Silence by Alice Munro) Pedro Almodóvar, Ph Jean Claude Larrieu, Art Dir Antxon Gómez, Ed José Salcedo, Music Alberto Iglesias, Costumes Sonia Grande.

 

El Deseo/FilmNation Entertainment/Echo Lake Entertainment/Blue Lake Media Fund-Pathé.
98 mins. Spain. 2016. Rel: 26 August 2016. Cert. 15.