Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Volver

The Spanish cinema scene is easy to miss (from here) when much of European film is from other countries and, from where I'm standing, seems to be somewhat introverted. So much so that I have to admit that the only person I've heard of in relation to Volver is its star, Penelope Cruz. This is, however, an excellent little drama/thriller created by writer/director Pedro Almodóvar in 2006.

Raimunda (Cruz) travels with her daughter Paula to the old family village, rife with superstition (which locals link to the wind!) and a history of somewhat questionable people and motives. As the film proceeds, more is unravelled and we get to understand what's what. She and her sister Sole, played excellently and with great humour by Lola Dueñas, have suddenly had their mother turn up, who they thought was dead - or was she? Thus fuelling the superstition!

Simultaneously, Raimunda's husband, a good-for-nothing layabout who drinks too much and takes far too much interest in Raimunda's 14 year-old girl, is heading towards getting his comeuppance! This is where the story takes a dark turn, and without giving too much away, the family take matters into their own hands in order that the women stick together and address infiltrations. This is a film very much about the power and control of women, particularly in Spanish society, with the vast majority of the excellently supporting cast female.

The family is poor and pull together to take advantage of any opportunity for work and income. They take a short lease on a cafe to provide for a film crew shooting in the area for a couple of weeks and it is apparent that the community pulls together in order to make that a success so that they can all benefit. All this is going on amongst the backdrop of rekindled relationships between families and friends - and the uncovering of truths buried for decades about many of them, what has happened, who's who and reparation. I'd better stop there for fear of revealing too much!

It would be tempting to dismiss this as a 'chick flick' or RomCom with subtitles but although it could be consumed in that manner, it's much more than that. It's an interesting, shocking, funny and dark tale carefully interweaved with much learning for the unenlightened viewer about Spanish rural culture, superstition, the role of women there and dealing with death and dying. Penelope Cruz is, as always, great to watch and is clearly the star of the show performing quite brilliantly, but all of the female players are warm and engaging too. Recommended.

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