Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Julieta," a Film by Pedro Almodovar

Readers of this blog may remember how much I admire and love the fiction of Alice Munro, the wonderful Canadian writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. A couple of days ago, I went to see the Spanish film “Julieta,” directed by Pedro Almodovar and based on three Munro stories from her collection “Runaway” (2004), but with the setting changed from Canada to Spain. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles. The stories are “Change,” “Soon,” and “Silence.” (Almodovar originally called the film “Silence” after one of the stories, but when he found that Martin Scorsese’s new film was to have the same title, he changed it.) Warning: although I try not to give too much of the plot away, some might consider that the following contains spoiler alerts. OK, warning given, I will proceed: The film is about a mother, Julieta, whose daughter, Antia, unexpectedly left when she was 18 and for 12 years never communicated with her mother except for a few blank birthday cards. In the “present” of the film, Julieta is about to move from Spain to Portugal with her new lover, when she runs into Antia’s childhood friend, who says she recently saw Antia by chance and that Antia is now living in Switzerland, is married, and has three children. Julieta immediately changes her plans to move, and stays in Madrid, where she hopes Antia will someday contact her. Meanwhile, we get an extended flashback to when Julieta met Xoan on a train, they became lovers, and she eventually moved in with him and had her daughter, Antia. There are many twists and turns in the stories of the past and of the present, including a tragic death. I will of course not reveal these, nor the ending of the story. The role of Julieta is played by two actresses, one as Julieta in her 20s (Adriana Ugarte) and one, in the present, as Julieta in her early 50s (Emma Suarez). The actresses look startlingly alike, and both are terrific. Almodovar, in interviews, said that despite the rather melodramatic events of the story, he was aiming for a film of austerity, restraint, and solitude, and he achieves this, in my opinion. To me, the most powerful part of the film is the emotional connection between mother and daughter, which is so strong and then becomes severed. Julieta’s pain and mourning are palpable and wrenching. Even when she has found new love with a very supportive man, she is willing to give it all up on the tiny chance that her daughter will get back in touch with her. I felt I had to see this film because of the Alice Munro connection, but even without knowing of that background, I would have very much liked the film and been very moved by it.
Site Meter