A review of “Volver” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: R for nudity, language and bloodshed. In Spanish with English subtitles

Run Time: 2 hours

 

 

Penelope Cruz gives a remarkably mature and poignant performance in a disjointed account of tangled family ties.

Cruz is the sultry Raimunda, a Madrid wife, mother and multi-tasker who struggles with a teenage daughter, long hard workdays and a rocky marriage.

A family crisis results in her deadbeat hubby’s untimely death. Raimunda’s snap solution is to dispose of the body and keep his disappearance on the Q.T.

As if that’s not enough of a burden Raimunda is also coping with her plainer jealous younger sister (Lola Duenas), who claims their deceased mother (Carmen Maura) is making appearances at her apartment. A ghost or a hallucination?

The family dysfunction makes for a complex foundation greatly enhanced by director Pedro Almodovar’s traditionally vivid visuals (red the recurrent color of choice) and abstract sense of style coupled with a Hitchcock-mystery vibe.

But “Volver” leans heavily towards the capricious, encompassing superfluous apparitions, a thread of genetic insanity and the tempestuous winds of change into a melodramatic telenovela that feels more like silly frippery than the delicious spiritual fantasy it endeavors to be.

Energy rises and falls on Cruz’s slight shoulders and ample cleavage – crackling with vigor when she’s onscreen and inert when she’s not. In trademark Almodovar fashion women get the lion’s share of screen-time.

A mixed bag, albeit one with significant signature style.