From the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind The Skin I Live In, this Spanish drama weaves together three short stories by Alice Munro.
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BY Adam Fresco Flicks Writer
Pedro Almodóvar's fans and newbies alike – rejoice! With his 20th feature, the Spanish auteur is back and on superb form, with a drama that’s part character study, part classic Hitchcock mystery, and all Almodóvar. Adapted from short stories by Alice Munro, and set in Madrid, the titular Julieta (Emma Suárez) is a middle-aged mother, estranged from her daughter, Antía. So begins a sequence of flashbacks, in which we see events through the eyes of a teenage Julieta, (played by Adriana Ugarte).... More
The supporting cast are superb, but the focus is firmly on the older and younger versions of the character, played with depth and humanity by both actresses. It’s not an easy film, rather an intellectual tour-de-force that examines regret and the inescapable nature of our past as being inextricably linked to our present. The multiple layers of meaning inherent in the script are exemplified by Julieta's job as teacher of Greek Mythology, raising themes of destiny and free will, alongside the director’s staple concerns of maternal relations, social status, aging and mortality.
Whilst the over-the-top characters and outrageous scenes of his past films are replaced with a more restrained approach, Almodóvar’s signature is clear: from the vibrancy of the colour scheme, the sweeping, sentiment of the score, to the concisely constructed script and camera angles. Yeah, I missed the humour normally associated with watching Almodóvar movies, but this is more than compensated for by a riveting emotional journey, replete with mystery, suspense and laden with a sense of past regret and longing for paths not travelled.
Warm, tender, mysterious, beautifully shot, scored and scripted, Julieta may not be as hilarious, exciting, or exuberant as some of Almodóvar’s earlier works, but it marks a mature auteur making movies with the control and confidence to place the focus firmly on character and reality, and all the disappointments and joys, tragedies and triumphs that real life implies.Hide
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BY cinemusefilm superstar
We meet the... More attractive widow Julieta just as she is packing to leave Madrid and move with her boyfriend to Portugal. Madrid is full of painful memories, the most intense of which is not seeing her daughter Antia for twelve years. A chance encounter with her daughter’s former best friend opens an uncontrollable torrent of guilt which suddenly fills Julieta’s life. Abandoning her boyfriend, she decides to stay in Madrid in case Antia ever looks for her. Unable to deal with her grief in any other way, she writes the story of her life as if she is talking to her absent daughter.
Julieta narrates the story in chapters that become extended flashbacks to her early romance with Antia’s father, their lives together as a family and its eventual disintegration. What was once a life full of loving relationships becomes one of multiple losses even though Julieta herself bears little blame for the tragedies. Julieta is unaware how deeply her daughter was affected by what happened and is bewildered when Antia searches for spirituality at a Swiss retreat. Her sudden disappearance without explanation has left her mother with unresolvable grief.
As each chapter unfolds we see the larger portrait of the mother and daughter relationship in all its dense complexity and destructive power. The narrative teasingly denies us knowledge of why Antia refuses all contact with her mother, and year after year Julieta mourns each passing birthday as if it was a funeral. The storytelling intensity is sustained by finely nuanced acting from the two stars who play the younger and older Julieta, and those who play Antia at different ages. The camerawork has a melancholic sensitivity that resonates with the Spanish landscapes and urban settings, and while the story unwinds slowly, to tell it more quickly would lose depth and meaning. Julieta is a darkly sensitive essay about the universal emotion of maternal guilt and its melancholy lifts like a rising fog with a masterfully ambivalent ending that soars.Hide