Thu 1 Sep 2016
I loved ‘Julieta‘. Pedro Almodovar’s 2016 production is one of those films that captivates the viewers during the whole duration of the screening because of the mastering of story telling and by using human emotions. Other directors may do the same thing by making recourse to thrills or horror or intellectual curiosity but it’s hard to keep the attention alive for the whole duration of a long feature film. It’s not the case here – as a viewer in a cinema hall I lived every moment of this story together with its (mostly female) heroes, and I keep thinking and caring about the characters hours after the screening finished. I believe that the conditions are met for the first 10 out of 10 grade on my IMDB scale in years.
Many of the previous films of Almodovar are about love and loss, about communication with and without words, about death and passion and the fragile border between them. What seems to be different in ‘Julieta’ is the more tender approach and also a message that seems to be more assertive that in many other movies of the Spanish maestro – there are dangers in being lonely and in not being capable to communicate with those you care about.
The social landscape where the film takes place is the same Spain in evolution from the democratic awakening of the late 70s and early 80s with its breaking of tradition and liberation of passions until the today with its cold and antiseptic kind of connections in the bourgeois or intellectual circles. The family cell is the one that seems to perpetuate not necessarily the traditions but also the cheating and domestic crises in a repetition that one can accept or revolt with all the risks taken. Julieta’s profession – a teacher of Greek and mythology, and a good one – puts her in the position to connect between the day to day banality of sentiments and the greater forces of destiny, but her problem resides mainly in the lack of communication with her daughter. Are the walls between generations unavoidable? Is it us who build these walls or is it just destiny that rises them in each generation? Can anything but time turn these walls down?
As in any great movies there are several levels of story. There is a story of relationship between mother and daughter, and of coming of age. There are threads about family relations that perpetuate for generations, about men who cheat, women who try to balance marriage, mothering, and their own realization, young maids who steal husbands, old maids who talk too much, social differences that can only be hidden but not erased. Death seems to be around the corner at many moments, so is physical incapacity and the pain of coping with the decay of the dear ones – these are some of the recurring themes in the movies of the Spanish master.
As in many of Almodovar’s films its the women characters who share most of the load (although this film also features one sensitive man as a key supporting character). The two actresses that play Julieta at the two stages of her life – Adriana Ugarte as a young woman, Emma Suárez as her elder self are both superb in taking turns to tell the story of a woman who loves and fears, loses all and searches back to find her compass in life. The way the story is written we learn about many of the details and discover some of the hidden threads together with the character. This helps us feel and resonate with her. The elegant casting and direction help us understand that while guilt may pass in between generations, there is always hope, and reconciliation is possible sometimes when not too many questions are asked. Beautifully filmed, deeply moving, superbly acted – what else can we ask?