I’ll admit, Volver was a hard one to get excited about. The only other Pedro Almodovar film I’ve seen is All About My Mother, which had a very disjointed narrative, and wasn’t one I was all that keen on. It took a few attempts, but I finally did start the film, and grew increasingly restless as the first few minutes went on. Then something happened, something that I won’t spoil for anyone, but I’ll just say that it definitely caught my attention, and suddenly I was caught up in the film, wondering what was going to happen next. Well, what happened next was that the film eased back down to its previous level, but with a new, revitalized focus, and the several almost-tangential storylines all started to come together, in blend that I have to say I found quite satisfying by the end.
Almodovar really seems to be a director that loves the idea of women, of what women can do and are capable of doing in various situations, as most if not all of his films that I know of are any indication, and Volver is no different. The situation this time revolves around death, and how it can be subverted or even revoked to give those who need it a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of their loved ones. The film has quite a few curveballs to throw at you, and despite me talking about them right now, it’d be best if you watched the film with no inkling of when or how they should appear, to really get the full effect of it. The cast are all very natural, and are largely responsible for how well the film works; indeed, the entire main cast shared the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival. Heading the ensemble cast is Penelope Cruz, who even got a rare Academy Award acting nom (for a foreign film), and she drives the film forward with her performance, and it works on every level.
All in all, Volver had much in common with All About My Mother; where Volver improves on its predecessor, though, is having the whole story come out a piece at a time, so we’re always on the edge of our seats, always fully invested in the characters and their stories. There’s a lot to fall in love with about Volver, but it’s not an “oh my god, I love this movie” type of film; it’s subtle, as it should be, and very emotionally affecting as a result, probably more so than it otherwise would be. I went into this with some trepidation, and came out unbelievably surprised at how much I cared about the story and the characters; this is really a film that will work you, if you let it, and you’ll be in good hands. That being said, I can understand how this was removed in later editions of the list, but it’s still worth an attentive look by those looking for a good character drama, and of course, don’t mind subtitles.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10