Film review – Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar, 2016)

The latest film from Pedro Almodóvar, Julieta, is a stunning interwoven story of mystery and intrigue that the director takes great care in unraveling for our viewing pleasure.

Centred around the titular character, we are introduced to Julieta as she plans to move from central Madrid to Portugal with her boyfriend Lorenzo. However, a chance encounter with a friend of her daughter causes her to completely rethink her decision. Her daughter, Antía, has been missing for several years and moving will mean any chance of reconnecting with her will be lost. She opts to stay behind and rent an apartment in the last known address that her daughter could contact her. She fills her time hand writing her thoughts on the events that led to her daughter’s disappearance, which play out in the form of a long flashback that makes up the bulk of the film.

It is an adaptation of three stories by Alice Munro taken from her 2004 award winning book Runaway, which Almodóvar first hinted at in his brilliant 2011 horror thriller The Skin I Live In via a Spanish-language version of the book being prominently read by one of the central characters.

The music in Julieta plays a critical part in setting the tone, switching it from serious drama to something slightly more sinister. It borders on sounding like a horror film at times, with the implied effect of hinting that whatever story has been revealed thus far still has more secrets within.

The success of the film ultimately lies on the two actresses who portray Julieta at various times through it her life. Fortunately, both Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte provide brilliant turns as the older and younger incarnations of Julieta, respectively. They are very different takes, resting either side of a devastating incident in her life. It works perfectly well and the change is handled with a certain elegance that ensures buy in from the audience.

Some ardent Almodóvar fans have been disappointed with his recent output, with some pointing to airplane-disaster-comedy  I’m So Excited as an indication that he’d lost his edge. Any doubts about how seriously he takes his work can be put to bed with Julieta – a beautiful work of art and a must see for anyone with a penchant for high quality cinema.

Julieta is available now on DVD.