Julieta by Pedro Almodovar paints a portrait of women on a background of drama in a film without real breath or relief, rather austere, that leaves one puzzled.
Julieta (Emma Suàrez) remains heartbroken by the absence of her daughter Antia who left her when she turned eighteen and gave no news since. During a chance encounter on a street in Madrid, Beatriz (Michelle Jenner), her daughter’s best friend, tells her that she recently met her daughter, who now has three children. Deeply shocked, Julieta ends her relationship and projects with Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti), rents an apartment in the building she used to live in and plunges into the past by writing to her daughter. Flashback: another Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) appears, thirty years ago…
First night of love in the tragic train
Julieta’s encounter with Xoan, Antia’s father, took place on a train, when the young woman leaves her compartment, as the mature man who just sit in front of her wants to talk. In the restaurant car where she seeks refuge, Xoan (Dalien Grao), is young and attractive… Suddenly, the train brakes in emergency: the man the young woman left in the compartment, just committed suicide.
Later, he replacement as ancient literature teacher finished, Julieta joins Xoan, a fisherman who do not appear to experience the crisis: he goes fishing seemingly when he wants and he has a maid, Marian (Rossy de Palma), to care about his pretty house by the seaside – and about his privacy. The first night of love in the tragic train turns into passion that will bring the birth of Antia.
Cruel abandonment of his daughter
The fatality wants that following a dispute over Xoan’s (benign!) sleeping around with his childhood friend, the sculptor Ava (Inma Cuesta), Julieta cold-shoulder Xoan who goes fishing when the sea is already rough. The storm that will follow will engulf his ship. Julieta moves to Madrid in the apartment of the mother of Beatriz, Antia’s friend of (who has a maid too). The two girls become inseparable, and take care of Julieta, devastated, in the grips of a depression. Once she enjoys life again, Julieta and Antia move into an apartment near that of Beatriz, as the two girls are inseparable.
Third ordeal for Julieta: the cruel rebuff she suffers from Antia who, gone to spiritual retreat, decides to live on her own by excluding her mother without explanation. To add hurt to injury, she learns the news from the mouth of the leader of the “spiritual retreat” in the mountain (well, even she has a maid, who serves tea…).
Cascading collateral damage
Over the scenes, the psychological mechanisms of this drama are tensioned, but they are rather limp… The story is scarcely credible. We even get bored, waiting for something exciting to happen. People leave the theater… We stay, because it’s Almodovar, all this will take shape, right? Well… not that much.
Especially that, if everything is beautifully filmed, with footages artistically using the perspectives, one “feels” the work behind the staging, which takes one away from the story. The mother-daughter relationships are not really explored. Hence, we are surprised when we learn the reasons why Antia fled her mother and her friend Beatriz. The acting is not really convincing, sometimes laborious, as if the protagonists didn’t themselves believe in that story of cascading guilt, of tragedies causing collateral damage from mother to daughter…
The most full-bodied role, the more real, is still that of Marian, the “raven” who enjoys peddling uncomfortable truths.
Julieta is the twentieth feature film of the Spanish master, big darling of the Festival, and the sixth selected in Competition after All About My Mother (Best Director Award in 1999), Bad Education (2004), Volver (Best Screenplay in 2006), Broken Embraces (2009) and The Skin I Live In (2011).
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