Film review by: Witney Seibold


            In the small town of Alcanfor in Spain, the dead don’t seem to stay dead. While Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) is busy dealing with her teenage daughter (Yohana Cobo) and abusive second husband (Antonio de la Torre), and dealing with an unexpected twist in her life, her sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) receives a visit from their recently deceased mother Irene (Carmen Maura). Mom, not really a ghost – in fact requiring suitcases, a bed, and toiletries – moves in with Sole, unbeknownst to Raimunda. Raimunda spontaneously opens a restaurant, and discovers through it a newfound freedom.


            During visits to her sisters’ salon, Mom has to hide under beds, and Raimunda seems to notice mom’s distict odor hanging in the air. Sole, meanwhile, always the quiet one, appropriately remains quiet of the entire thing at mom’s behest. Why did mom return from the dead? And why is she hiding from Raimunda? And why is Raimunda so clueless/distracted as to never notice that her own mother is around? Also in on the secret is Raimunda’s aunt (Isabel Díaz), dying of cancer, and chain-smoking pot.


            “Volver,” which translates as “to return,” is the latest film from Pedro Almodóvar, that master of frothy, bitter, glorious female togetherness, and brave explorer of homosexual life. While “Volver” deals with large themes of maternal reconciliation, mortality, forgiveness and commuting of sins, and the simultaneous importance and detriments of familial secrets, it comes across as mellow, breezy, almost light. Almodóvar’s trademark bright colors and mellow photography are in full swing, but he seems to have backed off from the warm, theatrical, hard-edged sexual themes that made his last few films (“All About My Mother,” “Talk to Her,” “Bad Education”) such masterpieces. The film is no less skilled than any of those mentioned, but is, as a result of its story, more triflish. It’s, simply put, not as good as “Talk to Her.”


            That said, though, all of the cast give terrific performances, especially Cruz, who is very pretty, but does not slide by with her charm alone. She plays a tough cookie in “Volver.” A Pretty woman, used to being subjugated, but not in staying quiet, who finally takes matters into her own hands, almost to the point of missing obvious clues around her regarding the rest of her family. “Volver” is very apt in capturing that feeling of independence one needs from their family, while at the same time needing to stay very close to one’s family. Carmen Maura, in true Almodóvar fashion, gives a beautiful performance as a stern-yet-playful matron.

             Stern yet playful. That’s “Volver.” Important  but fun. Dramatic, but funny. A very good film.

Published in: on November 20, 2007 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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