The master returns! Pedro Almodovar comes to colour our lives once more with his latest cinematic masterpiece, Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces), starring the beloved Pe, Penelope Cruz. Following the huge success of Almodovar and Cruz‘s previous outing, the Oscar nominated Volver (earning over $85m), Broken Embraces is another glorious infusion of mystery, revenge, desire and passion, and every bit as enthralling, complex, vibrant and colourful as Almodovar fans would hope.
Broken Embraces is the director’s 17th movie and with an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and multiple Baftas to his name, he has staked a claim as the critics and fans European auteur of choice. For those of you unfamiliar with Pedro‘s work, I highly recommend All About My Mother, Women On The Verge Of A Breakdown or Volver as a starting point.
As is typical with Almodovar movies, there are a slew of characters connected in intertwining subplots throughout Broken Embraces. There are essentially two time lines running in the movie, but the focus is the relationship between Mateo Blanco/Harry Caine played by Lluis Homar (Bad Education) and Lena, played by Penelope Cruz (Vanilla Sky/All The Pretty Horses).
The story of their relationship is told from Harry’s viewpoint in a series of flashbacks to the 90s. He and Lena met while he was directing a movie ‘Chicas y Maletas’ which Lena stars in (incidentally, the movie looks pretty good). The catalyst for this jaunt down memory lane is the death of prominent Chilean businessman Ernesto Martel, who is later revealed as having been Lena’s possessive boyfriend (and former boss) when the story of Lena and Harry’s romance is told. To make matters a little more complex, Mateo has a complicated working relationship with Judit (played by the brilliant Blanca Portillo) who obviously has deeper feelings for Mateo than he is aware of, and is later revealed to have had an affair with him.
Add into the mix Lena’s poor, troubled family including her terminally ill father, Judit’s son Diego (who looks after the now blind Harry) and his drug taking friends, Ernesto’s hilariously camp son spying on the lovers with his video camara, and you have a carefully controlled chaos playing out on screen.
Each story vignette is tied together in the end without any clumsy all-encompassing happy endings, and each character developed fully, except Diego who doesn’t appear to be more than a bit player and conduit for Harry and Judit’s development. Broken Embraces does not disappoint Almodovar‘s existing fans, and should ensnare quite a few newcomers helped, in no small way, by Penelope Cruz‘s enchanting performance as the Hepburn-esque Lena.
In short, it’s a delight! Muchas gracias Pedro, te queremos!