Oh Pedro, what has happened to the drama in your melodrama? This latest from Pedro Almodóvar is a dynamically flat story of Julieta, a woman whose daughter, Antía, has become estranged from her. Through flashback, we see Julieta meeting and falling in love with Xoan, a fisherman. We see their daughter growing up, the artist friend who is Xoan’s occasional lover, their disapproving housekeeper and Julieta’s father and ill mother. And we see the trauma that sets in train Antía’s rejection of her past.
This is all engaging enough but Julieta seems to sleepwalk through the events of her life, passive and slack-jawed, wondering why nothing goes right for her. One thing I expect from Almodóvar is great female characters; ballsy, unconventional women who may struggle but show great fight. Not so with Julieta.
There are some interesting secondary characters but they are mostly shown through Julieta’s eyes and narrative so we never really find out much about them. I wanted more of Ava and Marian (an underutilised Rossy de Palma), of Antía and Beatriz; they seemed far more interesting than Julieta.
There are some great incidental art and sculpture as decor and props and sometimes a beautiful use of colour. There is a lovely transition from young to older Julieta. But the narrative is humdrum; this happens, then this, then this and then this. The ending is no great surprise nor revelation and I was happy to see the credits roll.
Bechdel test – pass