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There was a time when I used to find myself having arguments with many Cosmo reading ‘feminists’ about the deeply misogynistic streak that there was in Pedro Almodovar‘s movies. This seemed to all stem from the tying bits in ¡Tie Me Up!, ¡Tie Me Down! that involved the tying. For some reason, the idea that you might have to apply some sort of restraint on someone you have kidnapped seemed irrelevant. Also, his history ocreatingng strong parts for women (including the film in question) in a particularly macho culture seemed to be forgotten.

This is something he has continued to do, but nowhere quite as much as his new film Volver. Despite it’s initial magic realist feel (with the central characters’ dead mother walking the earth to care for an elderly relative), it is a film that deals with the trial, tribulations and general minutiae of working class women living in the projects on the outskirts of Madrid. It’s kinda like the stuff that Mike Leigh does, only really good.

Central to it all is Penelope Cruz, for whom Almodovar supposedly wrote the film. And, she’s a revelation. No longer will she just be the less cool Salma Hayek in my mind. Thperformancece she gives is positively staggering. Add to that rock solid support from Almodovar stalwarts Carmen Maura and Lola Dueas, and a touching turn from newcomer Yohana Cobo as Cruz’s daughter and you have one of the best ensemble pieces in quite some time.

As with just about everything these days, it’s a good twenty minutes too long. Plotwise at least. If you haven’t guessed what the great revelation at the heart of this film is with half an hour to go, you haven’t been paying attention. But, for once, it doesn’t matter. His characters a so beautifully drawn and acted that you really don’t want to leave them.

I really don’t want to give anymore away of the plot. Although, I could tell you all of it and this would still be a serious must. Possibly the most heartwarming film about incest and murder you’re ever likely to see.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

26 September 2006 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Film

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