It may not be the most solid Almodóvar script but that does not mean the film is not worth a watch.
Volver could probably pass as a good Spanish soap opera. The film by talented director Pedro Almodóvar is about a predominantly female family and how they deal with situations that unfold. This melodrama contains all of Almodóvar’s trademarks; female focused, flawed human beings, consistent color palette, and plot twists. It just was not comprised together as well as his other films.
We are introduced to the entire family at the beginning of the film. Standing over their mother and father’s grave are sisters Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Sole (Lola Dueñas). They are trying to keep the grave clean of flying debris on a day that is about as windy as the day their parents died from the strong wind blowing fire that led to their death.
The two sisters and Raimunda’s daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo) leave the cemetery to go visit Aunt Paula (kind of confusing, I know). Aunt Paula can barely see or walk so it is to their surprise when they see an exercise bike in her bathroom. How could see use it if she can hardly walk? As they leave there are handmade deserts she prepared for them. But how could she bake if she can hardly see?
These are questions that Pedro side steps for the first act of the film. They are hinted at but not revealed until later. Although, the answer to this is not necessarily a spoiler, it is better to let Pedro do the answering.
Raimunda is headed home from her shift from the airport when she is greeted by Paula. This is not a regular occurrence so she knows that something is wrong but the real give-away is the blank face Paula has on her face. She cannot form the words to construct a sentence but when she is does it is haunting.
She explains to her mom that her drunken father came on to her in the kitchen. He recites that he is not the father in order to somehow make it justifiable to have sex with her. She pleads with him to stop but when he does not she pulls out a knife and ends up stabbing him to death.
As if Raimunda does not have enough to deal with she receives a phone call about another death that is close to her. Sole informs her that their Aunt Paula has passed away. She can barely focus on the news as the dead man on the floor of her kitchen remains her top priority.
You would assume that the film is leading you down the path of a murder-mystery-cover up but that tangent fades about as quickly as it begins. Instead Volver splits into a few directions, Raimunda successfully runs a restaurant but without permission. Sole gets help with her illegal hair salon business from a person you would least expect. The common centerpiece is the interactions amongst the family members.
Pedro loves to use the color of red, the color was all over Broken Embraces and Volver was no exception. From purses, to buses, clothing, tomatoes, furniture, and vehicles, the red hue is everywhere. The reasoning here is obvious, the red symbolizes blood and passion. It is becoming a trademark of Pedro’s.
Penelope Cruz was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Raimunda. However, the entire cast did so well that the female ensemble shared the Best Actress award at Cannes. Also at Cannes, the film itself was nominated for the Palme d’Or.
Volver is ultimately a melodrama about how death can be dealt with by forgiveness and acceptance. The biggest issue with this film for me was not that it was not as hard hitting as his other work but that it went off on some unneeded tangents. It may not be the most solid Almodóvar script but that does not mean the film is not worth a watch.