VOD film review: Volver
Ivan Radford | On 29, Sep 2015
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Duenas
Watch Volver online in the UK: MUBI UK
Volver is the story of Raimunda (Penelope Cruz); daughter to a dead mother, wife to a deadbeat husband, mother herself to a distant teenage daughter. When Raimunda’s sister Sole begins to see the spirit of their dead mother, however, the relationships between all of them begin to change.
The centre of the piece is the changing relationship between Raimunda and her returned mother, slightly reminiscent of The Sixth Sense. Except in this version, everyone can see Bruce Willis. And Haley Joel Osment is a middle-aged woman.
Set in the village of La Mancha, where Almodóvar himself grew up, the film has a close, intimate feel, dismissing those outside the family as irrelevant, focussing on the small group of women at its heart. Balancing out the return of the mother, Raimunda’s husband departs soon into the film, leaving the rest of the screen to be devoted to Almodóvar’s female muse. Like a sheet of Bounty soaking up blood, the film soaks up Cruz until it is saturated in her character. But after some male-led outings, the director’s return to a female-driven tale eschews romance altogether; the only male-female partnership of any import is that of him and Cruz.
From the simple overhead shot of her at the kitchen sink to a dazzling blend of transparent reflections at a Madrid bus stop, Volver is an aesthetic delight. As funny as it is beautiful, the sad undertones of the deliciously observed script are peppered with hilarious moments, from the discovery of the mother’s spirit in the boot of Sole’s car, to the unresolved issues that prompt her return: “Mama, is there anything you would…like me to do?” Raimunda asks. She abruptly replies: “Cut my hair.”
Perhaps the film of Almodóvar’s career, Volver is a touching and hysterical masterpiece flawed only by a brief moment of dubbed singing. That aside, however, this film is as genuine as they come.
Volver is now available on MUBI UK, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription.