I met Penelope Cruz when she was in Singapore way back in 2001, for the local premiere of Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky, but too bad for me I don't speak any Spanish, so I can't communicate anything beyond a smile and a request for an autograph from the beauty, amid hordes of folks who paid no attention to her and Crowe, just waiting for Tom Cruise to make his way down the red carpet and bask in his megawatt smile.
I can't say I've been following much of her movies since Vanilla Sky, save for that action flick Sahara. But she reunites with Spanish writer-director Pedro Almodovar in Volver, and surely, this is one movie that shouldn't be missed, for the simple reason that it has a superior story to tell, stemmed from Mother's love.
In a tale spanning three generations of a family, at first glance this is a pro-woman movie, where most of the men portrayed are cads. However, in its relative simplicity, this movie is extremely well crafted, with a great storyline to boot. You may find yourself wondering how mundane scenes are linked together in an interesting narrative that doesn't seem to want to end, and with so many subplots thrown in along the way, you're waiting for it to collapse on its own weight, which in lesser hands, it just might.
But it doesn't. Instead, it lifts itself through wonderful performances, as well as many a quick wit inserted every now and then to liven things up, in spite of its dark humour and dark themes, like spirits who return because they have unfinished business, or a killing that seems to want to expose itself at any time, or that deep dark mystery and skeleton in the closet which spanned more than a generation, seeking answers.
It's about communication, or the lack thereof, that we examine in the three generations, giving us results in the difference in parenting styles. It's true that a parent would want their offspring not to have to experience the negativeness of their growing up, and in the movie, while being teased by the red herrings, you'd come to understand, and perhaps even pre-empt if you're keen, at its revelation, touching on the sins of our, in this case, mothers (strange, isn't it?).
I can break the story down for you, but no, you have to experience it for yourself. For the price of a ticket, you'll get to hear Penelope Cruz sing, and the movie really did milk at lengths, plenty of cleavage shots for one reason or another. Highly recommended (for the story but of course!), and it's almost a guarantee you'll leave the theatre with a bittersweet feeling, with a tinge of positivity. But do hurry, as a slew of lesser movies releasing over the next week will see this film disappear from the local screens soon enough.