Spanish filmmaker spins tale of motherly love, lost love, and spurned love
Watching foreign films can sometimes feel intimidating because of their experimental nature and art-house feel often associated with them—it’s an unfamiliar feeling for Western viewers used to Hollywood blockbusters.
But not all foreign films are three-hour-long experimental features that are understood only by the director.
Julieta, Pedro Almodovar’s latest film, is a good place to start dabbling in non-American cinematography. Released last week, Julieta is the Spanish filmmaker’s 20th feature, and stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as older and younger versions of the film’s protagonist, Julieta. It was submitted to the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, and was selected to compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or.
Julieta follows the usual Almodovar format of a female protagonist in the middle of an emotional/nervous breakdown induced by uncontrollable external circumstances.
The film begins with Julieta meeting a woman who informs her that her daughter is married, has three children and is living in Switzerland. Julieta, who hasn’t seen her daughter in 12 years, is taken aback by this sudden news. The reasons for their estrangement remain unknown to the viewer. This encounter forces Julieta to adjust her previous plans of moving from Madrid to Portugal with her boyfriend Lorenzo. Instead, she chooses to embark on a search for her daughter.
The film is fast-paced, and the first 10 minutes leave little room for the viewer to breathe. Julieta’s breakdown is sudden and intense. This is reflected through the cinematographic techniques used, such as jump cuts and rushed dialogue. As the film progresses, the overall tone slows down as the film transitions into a flashback. Julieta starts writing to her daughter, explaining how she met, and eventually lost her father. What unfolds is a tragic tale of a woman who lost everything because of circumstances that were out of her control.
In the end, Julieta finally lets go of the grievances between her and her daughter, and heads to Switzerland with Lorenzo.
Julieta is also a story of women competing against each other in order to attain ever-higher ‘ideal’ levels in society. The female characters hate each other and continuously try to outdo one another to impress the men in their lives. This bleak image of relationships in the modern era has been explored by several directors, but Almodovar adds his own quirky and sarcastic flavour to it.
The film also explores the grieving process a mother goes through after the disappearance of her child. It is a heart-breaking film streaked with instances of humour that can be appreciated by a wide audience.