Pedro Almodóvar reunites with favourite leading lady Penélope Cruz for the first time since their triumph with 2006’s tragic-comic melodrama Volver. Broken Embraces, their new movie, doesn’t scale its predecessor’s heights but still contains much to delight fans of both director and star.
As with Volver, Bad Education and so many of Almodóvar’s other films, Broken Embraces boasts a complicated narrative structure that flashes back and forth between past and present – in this case, between contemporary Madrid and the Spain of the mid-1990s.
In the present, we encounter a blind screenwriter, played by Lluís Homar, who goes by the pseudonym ‘Harry Caine’. Learning of the death of powerful industrialist Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez), Harry recalls the period when he was a successful director working under his real name of Mateo Blanco. Back then, Martel bankrolled Mateo’s latest film as a vehicle for his mistress, aspiring actress Lena (Cruz), but when director and star fell in love, the industrialist’s jealous wrath triggered a fateful chain of events…
Broken Embraces shows Almodóvar at his most self-indulgent and self-referential: the film within the film, Blanco’s ‘Girls and Suitcases’ is quite clearly a version of Almodóvar’s first big international hit, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, with Cruz in the role originally played by Carmen Maura. Even if these references remind us how far short Broken Embraces falls from Almodóvar’s peak, the film’s sumptuous cinematography is bewitching and Cruz has never been more incandescently gorgeous.
Released 28th August.
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