Julieta (2016)

Impression:  Almost 40 years after his first feature, Almodovar has perfected the way his films look, and it’s visually stunning. All the walls in this film look incredible as backdrops: from the long-established  deep reds to strange 70’s inspired psychedelic wallpapers. I wish Pedro would come and do-up my house!  But it’s not just the backdrops: there is a brief, and not particularly important, scene of food preparation in Julieta. I realized, even if I was just shown eggs cooking, out of context, I would be able to recognize it as Almodovar’s “cooking eggs.”  I can’t completely explain why or how, but there is something about the quality of the color, the way that particular yellow looks on film. The backdrops and the general look of the film build the mood within which the plot takes place.

The basic theme in Julieta is a lack of communication between the main character and people in her life. There are secrets and unspoken truths between her and her lovers, between her and her parents, between her and a friend. But most disastrously  between her and her daughter, who disappears without any explanation. Some of the motivations behind this central breakdown are revealed by the end, but never completely, and the ambiguity of why such a break would happen lingers after the credits. Interesting parallels are drawn between different relationships in Julieta’s life; she deals in different ways with similar situations in different contexts.  Infidelity when she is the cause of it is excused, when her father is in a similar situation is frowned upon, but when she is the victim is devastating. Yet she never quite grasps the hypocrisy. Despite her flaws, Julieta is portrayed as a sympathetic character who has lived through a number of traumatic events, and persevered. The film draws you in, and makes you feel devastated for her. She is stunned to find herself abandoned by her daughter. It’s not until a conversation many years later (still not initiated by her) that she gets some explanation and begins to acknowledge that some of her actions (or inactions) may have had consequences.

Facts: A woman searches for answers about her missing daughter and reminisces about her life.

Extra: Almodovar is my favorite film director. In my head, I divide his films into two eras: ones made before I discovered his movies circa late 1990’s and ones that have been made since. The dividing line is a little fuzzy, but basically either right before or right after Live Flesh (1997). The early ones are low budget, and either outright comedies with ridiculous premises (think: terrorist sniffing gay lovers, or nuns who smuggle weapons and prostitutes) or comedy/melodrama mixes.  The later ones are mostly dramas, with much higher production value, amazing cinematography, a much more main-stream feel, but sometimes still far-fetched melodramatic premises. The films in the two eras fall into completely different genres, and are hard to compare.  All About My Mother is my  favorite of the later films. And Julieta is now a close second.