Thanks to a heavy sense of artfulness and an incredibly subdued sense of emotion, this Spanish drama is a real killer
One of the most underrated filmmakers to have hit the scene in the past 30 years is hands down Pedro Almodóvar, the Spanish auteur responsible for a countless number of foreign classics such as “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “Talk to Her,” “Bad Education,” “Volver,” “The Skin I Live In” and many, many others. Yet, Almodóvar often times finds trouble finding traction with mainstream audiences, since much of his work often contains bizarre scenes that often turn American audiences off to it. Finally, there seems to be a film that finally can introduce mainstream audiences to Almodóvar in the most accessible way yet in “Julieta”, and it still won’t gain traction. This is not due to any of the marketing techniques of Sony Pictures Classics, nor it not gaining any Oscar nominations this year. America seems to have a strange disposition to any film with subtitles, as many people “don’t like to read at the movies.” (My friend’s words, not mine.)
And once again, Almodóvar strikes gold in “Julieta,” and I feel like an old man yelling at a cloud trying to convince people to see it.
Julieta (Emma Suárez) is a woman living in Madrid with her daughter Antía (Blanca Parés). They are both grieving the loss of the family patriarch, Xoan (Daniel Grao), as well as both struggling to keep their healthy relationship afloat. When Antía turns 18, she suddenly abandons her mother, asking to cease contact with her mother altogether. Broken up, the film uses flashbacks to cut back to a younger Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) to show the reasoning behind Antía’s actions.
“Julieta” is a small, quiet film that proves itself as a piece of art in every frame Almodóvar carefully constructs, as well as returning him to the world of female-centric films like “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and “All About My Mother.” The way in which Almodóvar uses color to beautifully create the canvas of each character’s emotion is a trademark of the director, but never ceases to be just as stunning as it has always been. The color of choice in “Julieta” is red, showing the desire always present in Julieta’s life, whether it be a carnal desire, or that of motherly love. The concept of love in “Julieta” is explored in a way that many films don’t even begin to approach. It’s not a melodramatic film by any means, but it’s a film where you feel each individual blow leveled against the characters in an oddly engaging way.
Both Suárez and Ugarte turn in show-stopping performances as “Julieta,” both of whom play off each other almost seamlessly. I never doubted once that Suárez is the woman Ugarte grew up to be. The wide-eyed young Julieta is a breath of fresh air compared to the broken, downtrodden older Julieta we get exposed to. Both of these women represent two completely different sides of a woman, but each one contains the bare essence of Julieta in their performances, which is a rarity in films that utilize flashbacks so heavily. Not only do Suárex and Ugarte do fabulous work, but the film is also filled with wonderful supporting performances, none more impressive than Almodóvar regular Rossy de Palma. De Palma represents everything in her servicewoman character from those as cold as Ms. Danvers in “Rebecca” to as warm as Abileen in “The Help.” The entire film is filled with complicated, dichotomous characters that are all deserving of the Almodóvar name.
Many might argue that “Julieta” moves at a slow pace and feels a bit incomplete, yet at a lean 99 minute runtime, “Julieta” knows how to quit while it’s ahead. The beauty of many Almodóvar films is how a story doesn’t have to go all the way to a cliché, Hollywood ending to make a story feel complete. Almodóvar’s way of developing characters and relationships exist on so many more levels than just what is said between characters. This is a deep film that requires the utmost discretion whilst viewing; this isn’t a casual film to just sit down and watch, but it’s nowhere near as inaccessible as many of Almodóvar’s other films are for mainstream audiences.
There’s not much to really say about “Julieta” other than to get up and go see it. This is a quiet, downplayed film that suprisingly didn’t pick up as much heat as it should’ve. It can be argued that “Julieta” is Diet Almodóvar, but it’s a fabulous place to start if you haven’t been exposed to the euphoric, entrancing nature of this Spanish master of film. This is a beautifully subdued, emotionally resonant and highly affecting film in more ways than one. You might not get every bit of glorious excess that you might get in another type of Almodóvar film, but “Julieta” has everything it needs to distinguish itself as another great Almodóvar film, as well as a lovely light in the darkness of the January-February dumping season of movies.
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao, Imma Cuesta, Dario Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, and Rossy De Palma.
Runtime: 99 minutes
Rating: R for some sexuality/nudity.
Now playing exclusively at Regal Park Terrace.
A Sony Pictures Classics release, El Deseo presents, “Julieta,” an Almodóvar film