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Julieta, A Change of Course for Director Pedro Almodóvar

Julieta, A Change of Course for Director Pedro Almodóvar


The filmmaker’s latest is a surprising but welcome change of pace. 

If not for its hyper-rich color palette, soap-operatic score, and familiar meditation on memory, Julieta might leave audiences wondering if they're watching a Pedro Almodovar film at all. Even for a director who's spent his recent years aggressively genre-hopping (from taboo body horror in The Skin I Live In to senseless farce in I'm So Excited!), this startling foray into virtually humorless drama is an intense departure. Still, longtime fans will devour the artistry and feminism at the forefront of Julieta, an unwavering study of maternal turmoil and the type of vast changes that can take a lifetime to accept.

Adapted from short stories by Alice Munro, the movie is a lengthy, almost clinical examination of one woman's battle with herself. After learning in passing that her estranged daughter, Antia, is living in Switzerland, Julieta (Emma Suarez), who's in Madrid, upends her life to prepare for a reunion. But first, in a sweeping, Almodovarian flashback, we meet a younger Julieta (Adriana Ugarte), a struggling mother who weathers grief, swells of inadequacy, and, eventually, a crushing blow of abandonment.

Almodovar draws expectedly grand performances from his actresses (including rare beauty Rossy de Palma as an elderly maid), but it's refreshing to see him eschew his trademark melodrama and exercise such steady tonal restraint. The result is more belabored than the director's best, but its moral is vivid: From the birds fleeing our nests to the hurdles blocking our paths, we are measured by how gracefully we roll with each punch.

Julieta will be released in select theaters on December 21.

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