Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Movie Review: Volver


In Brief: What's Good

  • Nice performance by Penelope Cruz.

  • Nice story with strong female characters and a relatively pleasant tone compared to so many violent movies getting Oscar buzz around the time of this movie's wide release.

In Brief: What's Not As Good

  • A couple characters have oddly downplayed reactions to the return of a character that has been "gone" for a long time.

In Brief: Language Notes:

  • Volver is in Spanish with English subtitles.

  • Volver, pronounced "Bol-Ber," is Spanish for "To Return" (or as some sources translates it, "Coming Back").

B- Story
B Acting
B Directing
B- Visuals

Volver centers around the lives of women in and near a superstitious village in Spain who are dealing with elements of their past coming back to haunt them.

The main characters are Raimunda (Penelope Cruz), Raimunda's daughter Paula and sister Sole, their Aunt Paula (for whom Raimunda's daughter is named), and Augustina, who is a good friend of the family and neighbor to Aunt Paula. There's one other major female character, but it's best leaving her name and relationship unrevealed for now.

Volver plays a little bit like an elaborate, high-budget soap opera, complete with infidelities, incest, single parenthood, questionable paternity, cover ups of accidental deaths, alleged ghosts, unexpected family ties, and someone going on a talk show to get money for cancer treatment in Houston.

These various subplots are played out seriously and, at any point, could have taken absurd or farcical turns. But, this is not meant to be a comedy. The subplots are carried out in a serious and believable way.

The only subplot that is a little bizarre, until its logical explanation finally becomes apparent, is people's belief that they are seeing a ghost of someone who has long passed away.

Taking into consideration the superstitious nature of villagers in one of the movie's settings, as well as the excellent way in which the various backstories are revealed and converge at the end, even the belief in apparitions makes sense.

Overall, this is a refreshing, mostly light-hearted movie. It definitely does not feel like a Hollywood production, and perhaps, it's the foreign feel of the movie that keeps the story interesting, fresh, and unpredictable.

If you're looking for a movie that's neither super-serious nor super-comical, with strong female roles, and you don't mind reading subtitles, this might just fit the bill.

Oscar Awards

  • Nomination - Best Lead Actress: Penelope Cruz

Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • Nomination - Best Lead Actress: Penelope Cruz

Golden Globe Awards

  • Nomination - Best Foreign Language Film

  • Nomination - Best Drama Lead Actress: Penelope Cruz

Fun Facts from Internet Movie Database

According to director Pedro Almodovar, the one fake part on the body of main character Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) is her butt. He believes that characters like Raimunda usually have larger butts but that Penelope Cruz's natural butt is too "stylized."

Penelope Cruz has become the first Spanish actress ever nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars.

No comments: