Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) is about to leave Madrid to live in Portugal when she runs into Bea (Michelle Jenner), the childhood friend of her daughter Ant’a (Priscilla Delgado, Blanca Parés). This chance meeting sets off a range of emotions in Julieta, who hasn't seen or heard from her estranged daughter for over a decade. She begins to write a long and revealing letter to her daughter - one filled with regret, guilt and love.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Seeing it described in the opening titles (and the end credits) as 'a film by Almodóvar', is a little alarming; is Pedro signaling that he has reached one-name status, like Picasso? It's a worry. That sort of honour should be left to others to confer. As a long-time fan of his, though, I give him the benefit of the doubt. That little quirk adds expectations to the film. So how does Julieta stack up, especially as it was a contender for the Palme d'Or.
It is essentially an authentic Almodóvar film, with its soap opera ethos, the intricacies of interpersonal relationships that connect family with strangers, betrayal with loyalty and secrets that drive the drama. Like an Agatha Christie mystery, it conforms to the brand, but in some ways it loses its power as a result. The story develops from a mother daughter relationship, starting with the encounter on a train that brings mother and lover together before the baby and skates across time, through the baby's arrival into Julieta's life, through deaths and suicides, through break ups and loneliness ... and guilt.
The concept of guilt is introduced early, when a young Julieta fails to engage with a fellow passenger, an older man seated opposite. She blames herself for the consequences of her disdain, and this theme recurs to dramatic effect.
Almodóvar is good at conflating emotions of characters to blot out rationality, and his ability to create and cast interesting screen characters is his biggest talent. Like a magician, he can turn our focus to those rich portraits to hide and gaps in storytelling. For example, Rossy de Palma plays the housekeeper, Marian, whose function in the screenplay is hardly central: she is a commentator, an opinionated and ultimately well meaning but hard as nails outsider in the house where Xoan (Daniel Grao) lives and where Julieta ends up. She is so fascinating that we lose interest in the others ...
Heartbreak and death
crowd each other in Almodóvar films, and the rich textures of life that he captures
on screen are stimulating and memorable, but Julieta doesn't fully satisfy, not because it's rather bleak, but because it has little metaphoric power. Too much like a soap, really ...
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CAST: Adriana Ugarte, Rossy de Palma, Emma Su‡rez, Inma Cuesta, Michelle Jenner, Daniel Grao, Dario Grandinetti, Nathalie Poza, Priscilla Delgado, Blanca Parés
PRODUCER: Augustin Almodóvar, Esther Garcia
DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodóvar
SCRIPT: Pedro Almodóvar (short stories by Alice Munro)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Claude Larrieu
EDITOR: José Salcedo
MUSIC: Alberto Iglesias
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Antxón Gómez
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 13, 2016