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Year: 2006 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Pedro Almodovar 
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Antonio de la Torre  
An image from Volver

Pedro Almodovar's feature "Volver" signals a new, low-frills departure for a helmer whose recent work has been as much about style as substance. Volver is cinematographically and dramatically more contained and satisfyingly unflashy, peopled with superbly drawn, attractive characters smoothly integrated into a well-turned, low-tricks plotline. This may be Almodovar's most conventional piece to date, but it is also his most reflective; a subdued, sometimes intense and often comic homecoming that celebrates the pueblo and people that have shaped his imagination.

Raimunda (Cruz) lives in Madrid with her daughter Paula and works as a cleaner; her husband Paco (who may or may not be her daughter's father) is always drunk and her sister Sole is separated, working clandestinely as a hairstylist. The two sisters lost their parents in a fire in La Mancha, their birth village, years ago. In the village remains only their aunt Paula who continues to speak about their mother as if still alive. One evening, Raimunda finds her younger sister wandering the streets in a daze, and discovers that the girl has stabbed Paco to death after he tried to abuse her. Raimunda agrees to take responsibility for the death and cleans up the mess…but when their old aunt dies the past comes back (volver), in a twist of mystery and suspense.

Many Almodovar stylistic hallmarks are present: the references to the mindless cruelty of reality TV and the homage to classic film (in this case to Visconti's "Bellissima"). Surprisingly there isn't any love story. These women, a curious combination of the pragmatic and the superstitious, inhabit a world in which men are either surplus or dead. The supernatural air that permeates certain scenes is credibly filtered through character psychology; one memorable scene has Sole glimpsing what briefly seems to be all the dead men of the town.

With faultless casting coupled with Cruz's performance of a lifetime, this film does nothing but dazzle. It is visually stunning (beautiful Spanish courtyards and cluttered interiors) and the stand-alone flamenco song, Volver, is just every Spain-lover's delight. So cool.

Victoria Galloway

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Spring Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Spring Term (35mm)
2020/2021 Autumn Term (35mm)