I’m thrilled to be covering a number of selections from the 54th Annual New York Film Festival, which takes place September 30th-October 16th.
Directed by Pedro Almodovar
At a certain point, filmmakers can achieve a level of fame and prestige that inspires creative people to work with them based on their reputations alone and audiences to go see the films just because their names are on the poster. Pedro Almodovar is one such auteur, marking his twentieth feature film after making his debut thirty-six years ago. Almodovar is an internationally-renowned, Oscar-winning writer and director known for his focus on sexuality in all forms, always delving deep into the rich characters he creates. His latest film presents another strong representation of women in its examination of the life of protagonist Julieta Arcos in two distinctly separate parts.
Julieta (Emma Suarez) is first introduced in a committed relationship with Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti), planning a move from Spain to Portugal. After she runs into her daughter Antia’s childhood best friend on the street, she cannot shake the feelings of regret that come up due to her completely nonexistent relationship with her adult daughter. As Julieta tries to return to elements of her life from before Antia left, Julieta’s story unfolds with a different actress (Adriana Ugarte) playing her younger self, representing a completely different time full of possibility and optimism, with a far less mature Julieta devoid of any sense of where life will take her when she meets Antia’s father Xoan (Daniel Grao) on a train one snowy night.
Casting two actresses to play Julieta at the start of her adult life and far into it is a masterful and extremely effective choice since the two really are different people. The older Julieta has made something of her life and shows it in the way that she dresses and carries herself, while the younger Julieta is a starry-eyed explorer with no particular direction or plans to become something. Xoan has a profound effect on her transformation, and Antia’s birth is equally significant. Almodovar’s latest great opus, adapted from Alice Munro’s book of short stories “Runaway,” deals with the nature of love, infidelity, and happiness as they all intertwine to create an engaging and memorable story about a magnetic woman. Suarez and Ugarte are both equally excellent, contributing personality and poise to what makes Julieta who she is throughout her life. Grao and Grandinetti provide just the right kind of support, enabling their female counterparts to remain the stars of their own story, just the latest expertly crafted vision from the reliable Almodovar.