Review by Nathan Samdahl (B-)
The newest film from acclaimed director Pedro Almodovar, Broken Embraces, starring Penelope Cruz and Lluis Homar, delivers visually, but falls short of the mastery of story present in Almodovar's best films (i.e. Talk to Her). The film is about a famous film director, Mateo Blanco (AKA Harry Caine), who in a car accident loses both his sight and the woman he loves (Cruz), and discovers new ways to channel his talent. As the story twists and turns new information is revealed about the cause of the accident including the involvement of certain characters closest to him.
The entire film is beautifully shot, (I would expect nothing less). Just as in his best film Talk To Her (my favorite), Almodovar utilizes color perhaps better than any other director to greatly influence the audiences' emotional responses to each scene. Also, the integration of filmmaking into the story creates another fun level for Almodovar to play with, allowing him to create unique and stunning shots of the director in the story creating beautiful shots.
Where the film falters a bit is with the plot-heavy storyline. There are many reveals throughout the course of the film, each taking longer to fully explain. In the first half of the film, these reveals are integrated well into the overall story and do not greatly affect the film's pacing. However, by the end, it seems it was realized that there was still a lot of information to provide and not much time to reveal it in. A couple long scenes at the end, while still acted strongly, seem too expositional and a bit clunky, including one of the film's major scenes where Mateo's agent (played by Blanca Portillo) reveals a disturbing truth to him in a restaurant. I would have preferred the story to be simplified a bit, focusing more on the characters and less on their complex background.
The heavy plotting in the film still allows for strong and nuanced performances from Cruz, Homar and Portillo. However, unlike Volver, which allowed for a performance by Cruz that many thought was Oscar-worthy, her performance here will likely not create the same waves.
Would I see this film again? Probably not. Will people be swarming this film at Oscar time? Again probably not. Despite this, the strength of Almodovar's direction and the stunning beauty of Cruz (and her layered performance) still make this a film worth seeing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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