Julieta, the latest film by Spanish auteur Pedro Almódovar, focuses on the lives of women and how chance encounters and the power of love may shape a whole life. In this film, Almodóvar goes back to what he does best, exploring the female psyche through a melodrama where guilt as an emotion has the power to move decisions, create hurdles where there are none and even tear apart relationships. It’s a welcomed return since his failed attempt at comedy with I’m So Excited! (2013).
First we meet Julieta (played wonderfully by Emma Suárez) in her later years. She is a radiant and seemingly happy woman ready to move to Portugal with her partner (Darío Grandinetti). However, she starts to unravel after a chance encounter with one of her daughter’s childhood friends in the streets of Madrid. The sudden encounter sends Julieta in a tailspin of emotions that unravel throughout the film, forcing her to cancel her move to Portugal.
As the film unfolds, we go way back 30 years in her life to a young Julieta (Adriana Ugarte), who, again by chance, ends up meeting Xoan (Daniel Grao) only to later have a daughter with him, Antía. The life depicted here is one filled with searching and intense longing. Julieta travels far to meet her love Xoan and with him discovers love, motherhood and, of course, heartache. It turns out that, for Julieta, motherhood is the strongest bond a woman can have. As the film progresses, we get to the root of this story: the interrupted break in the mother-daughter bond and its implications for a mother.
Almodóvar is a wonderful storyteller, but there are many layers to the subtlety with which he tells a story, even one with melodrama. The way he plays with colors is not only beautiful and lush but also a careful consideration of every element as it intersects with the story. Julieta is mostly seen wearing blue, the color of sadness, as if it was her fate in life to be a wistfully nostalgic woman, always searching. We also see her in red, as life changes and her world starts to turn. There are some other cinematic elements that help us understand what the world these characters inhabit is like. Every choice is carefully considered. When Julieta first goes to visit Xoan — filled with expectation — the colors seem more vivid and brighter, but when she decides to move to Madrid, there is less of the buoyancy and excitement and a dearth of colorful landscapes that go along with that sadness.
As Julieta moves through life from a young, inquisitive person that teaches philosophy, her world is also upended by not having her daughter nearby. The separation makes her disconnect from the world and recoil within, to a world of regret and guilt. As the story unfolds we learn that, as life goes, there are many instances of why that guilt is unnecessary and how painful memories and a deep love prevent the free flow of communication. Perhaps this is the biggest tragedy, but for Julieta hope remains. Almodóvar’s return to the world of women makes this a great addition to the auteur’s repertoire. Although not its best, it can stand up there with Volver, The Flower of my Secret and All About My Mother.
Julieta runs 99 minutes, is in Spanish with English subtitles and is rated R. It is playing in our South Florida area at the AMC Aventura 24, Shadowood Square 16, Merrick Park Landmark, Tower Theater, O Cinema Miami Beach and South Beach 18. For screenings near you, click here. A screener link was provided by Sony Pictures Classics for the purpose of this review.