Penelope Cruz is one of the year’s Best Actress nominees—deservedly so—yet the Best Actress prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival went to the entire female cast of “Volver.” The unorthodox sharing of the Cannes prize speaks volumes about the power of the performances within Almodovar’s film.
A movie dedicated to uncovering the heart and soul of women, beautifully shot in vibrant colors and able to capture moments both poignant and humorous, “Volver” is enchanting to watch—both cinematically and spiritually.
In a working class neighborhood of Madrid, Raimunda (Cruz) is completely dedicated her family, yet she is married to an unpleasant alcoholic. When Raimunda returns home from work one day to find her husband dead in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor, she learns that her daughter (Yohana Cobo) had stabbed him in an effort to prevent him from raping her. Immediately, Raimunda conceals the murder by cleaning the blood from the floor and hiding the body.
Meanwhile, an element of the supernatural appears in the form of Irene (Carmen Maura). She is the deceased mother of hardworking Raimunda and kind Sole (Lola Duenas), as well as the sister of senile Paula (Chus Lampreave). Irene joins Sole after Aunt Paula’s passing and attempts to address issues left unresolved before her death.
Almodovar celebrates women. He is a master at portraying the nuances of the fairer sex, made evident in previous films such as “All About My Mother” (1999) and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988).
With “Volver,” he focuses on the bonds between women. As is typical in his films, the males in the film are weak and pathetic, while females, strong and resilient, overcome whatever situations life hands them. In one of the film’s last scenes, Irene tells Raimunda the circumstances of her death and the reason why she has returned. Capturing the power of the bond between mother and daughter, their emotional honesty warms the entire film.
“Volver” means “to return” in Spanish, and that process is indeed one of the film’s central themes. Irene returns from the afterlife to take care of unfinished business while Almodovar urges his viewers to return to their families, no matter how unorthodox such families may be.
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