Monday, 3 October 2016

Julieta (EIFF 4)

The best film I watched on day four of the EIFF was Pedro Almodovar’s latest film, Julieta. Based on three inter-connected short stories by Alice Munro, Julieta stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as the older and younger Julieta, and Daniel Grao and Darío Grandinetti as Xoan and Lorenzo, partners of the younger and older versions of Julieta.

The film begins in the present, with Julieta and Lorenzo preparing to move from Madrid to Portugal. All seems well until Julieta runs into Beatriz, her daughter’s former best friend, who reports having recently seen Antía (Julieta’s daughter) and her children. Julieta is transfixed and immediately renews her obsession with connecting with her daughter, whom she hasn’t seen in twelve years (since Antía was 18). Julieta has never understood why Antía left her, though she believes it must have something to do with Antía’s father (Xoan). Julieta leaves Lorenzo (without explanation; she never told him about Antía) and decides to write a journal to Antía, telling her more about Xoan and his life with Julieta.

We then flash back to how Julieta and Xoan meet and begin their life together with their darling daughter. Tragedy strikes and Julieta is hit hard, but not as hard as when Antía (at 18) suddenly leaves for a three-month retreat and never returns or says a word about why she left. Will she ever learn the truth about Antía and her disappearance?

Julieta is in some ways a typical Almodovar film, with the usual gorgeous cinematography full of his trademark vibrant colours and with typical themes like motherhood, death and memories. There’s even a typical nod to Hitchcock and film noir in the fine score, but that’s somewhat problematic because the story, as presented, doesn’t feel much like Hitchcock or film noir. Indeed, the film’s biggest flaw, for me, was the way the story unfolded with insufficient information to understand what really happened (unanswered questions at the end of the film were not welcome). The other flaw was that the sad, rather melodramatic plot did not engage me emotionally the way it should have (though that was not true for some of my fellow viewers). 

Nevertheless, Julieta was a beautiful and consistently entertaining film, with some excellent performances (especially from Suárez and Ugarte) and an intelligent screenplay. ***+. My mug is up. 

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