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Volver - Review

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Pedro Almodovar & Penelope Cruz; Almodóvar Documentary (39 Minutes); A Conversation With Pedro & The Cast (38 Minutes); Cannes 2006 Making Of (17 Minutes); Interview With Pedro Almodóvar; Interview With Penelope Cruz; Interview With Carmen Maura; Behind The Scenes Musical Montage.

SPANISH filmmaker Pedro Almodovar has produced some of his best work with Penelope Cruz and the two are united here in equally memorable fashion.

Volver – which means come back or return – is an emotionally engaging bittersweet family tale that combines elements of comedy, thriller and ghost story.

It contains plenty of Almodovar’s trademark touches but is essentially a very personal tale that allows the substance of the plot to take precedence over any particular directorial style.

At the centre of it all stands Cruz, seldom sexier, as Raimunda, a fiercely driven woman who is attempting to juggle several jobs in order to support her unemployed, loutish husband and 14-year-old daughter (Yohana Cobo).

When her husband is killed by her daughter following an attempted rape, Raimunda intervenes and determines to cover up the crime by hiding the body and insisting that he has left the family.

But her struggles are compounded by the fact that her mother (Carmen Maura) seems to have returned from the dead and taken up residence with her timid sister, Sole (Lola Duenas).

Meanwhile, another of Raimunda’s friends, Agustina (Blanca Portillo), has just been diagnosed with cancer and is determined to uncover the whereabouts of her own mother, who went missing years ago.

With so much going on, it would have been easy for Almodovar to let events spiral beyond his control, or to overlook certain characters.

But such is his attention to detail and his willingness to actually allow his actors to perform, the film maintains an intimate feel that allows each of his principals to shine.

Cruz is simply majestic as Raimunda, cleverly counter-balancing the stresses and strains of her worsening predicament with the sassiness needed to get by.

She is a fiercely determined woman who knows just when to use her sexuality to get what she wants. But she’s also incredibly vulnerable and her heartache and grief over past events are beautifully realised in several well-staged moments.

Crucially, however, she doesn’t detract from the other players even though the film is at its absolute best whenever she is around.

Come the poignant resolution, when all of the plot points and supernatural elements come together to make sense, viewers can’t fail to be touched.

Volver had been among the favourites to land the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (an honour that went to Ken Loach) and it’s easy to see why.

Beautifully acted and directed, Volver is both funny, sad and thought-provoking, while offering an intriguing insight into life at the heart of the director’s rural La Mancha roots.

Like its translated name suggests, it’s something that viewers will enjoy returning to time and time again.

Read our interview with Penelope Cruz

Read our interview with Pedro Almodovar

In Spanish with subtitles

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 1min