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Director: Pedro Almodovar (Volver, Talk to Her, All About My Mother, Bad Education)
Cast: Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte, Dario Grandinetti, Rossy de Palma, Nathalie Poza, Daniel Grao, Michelle Jenner, Inma Cuesta
Synopsis: Julieta, a middle-aged woman living in Madrid with her boyfriend Lorenzo, learns that her estranged daughter, Antia, is living in Switzerland. Heartbroken from 12 years of total absence, Julieta cancels a planned move to Portugal and moves to her former building, in the hope that Antia will communicate with her by sending a letter. Alone with her thoughts, Julieta starts to write her memories to confront the pain of the events leading to the separation. Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 99 Minutes (plus 8-10 minutes of trailers)
No free passes or daily deals, but discount cards o.k.
In ‘Julieta,’ Almodóvar makes his mark with new subtlety
By Mick LaSalle
“Julieta” stands with the best films of its director, Pedro Almodóvar, but it’s a different kind of Almodóvar film. It’s a film of moment-by-moment virtuosity, and yet it’s without any of the director’s signature flashiness. Here he does a lot with a little, while he usually does a lot with a lot.
One of the most impressive things about “Julieta” is its double casting. It features one actress in the role of a woman from the age of 40 through 56, and another actress as the same woman from ages 25 through 40. This kind of casting is common, but what’s remarkable here — what feels as much a spiritual achievement as a technical achievement — is that we really feel as though we’re seeing the same person. Not merely the same character, but the same face and soul.
The effect of this is profound. Through this cinematic illusion, it’s as if we’re witnessing what time can do to a person, and also what time doesn’t do. The disappointments and heartaches of youth and middle age are present in the face of the older actress, Emma Suarez.
But as depicted by this most sensuous of directors, the beauty is there, too, tempered and battered a bit by the years, and yet elevated by a kind of grace. It’s a rare film that can burrow deep into your spirit and make you feel, “OK, yes, this is life.” “Julieta” touches the essential.
It’s based on three related stories written by Alice Munro. When we meet the older Julieta (Suarez), she is thinking of starting a new life with a new man in another country. But on a street in Madrid, she runs into a childhood friend of her daughter.
The friend remarks on the coincidence — she says that she recently ran into Julieta’s daughter — and the look on Suarez’s face suggests a mix of panic, hope and anguish that really can’t be described. What Julieta doesn’t mention to the friend is that she has no idea where her daughter lives and hasn’t seen or heard from her in years.
When she arrives back at her apartment, Julieta starts writing an account of her youth, in the hope that the daughter might someday read it. And it’s here where the story moves some 30 years into the past, to the fateful train ride when Julieta met the man who would become her husband.
Because Almodóvar is a director who cares about these things, young Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) looks not only like Suarez but exactly like the mid-1980s, with a hairstyle not unlike that of Melanie Griffith around the time of “Body Double.” And the train interiors are saturated with color. They’re beautiful. They look like the past, and they look like romance.
There’s not a scene in this film in which there is not both something to see and an acting moment to savor, as well as some nuance or implication or suggestion to ponder.
But just to talk about Almodóvar’s virtuosity for a moment, there’s a character in the film — that of a housekeeper, who works for Julieta’s future husband — who is a little bit odd and forbidding. The housekeeper has shades of Hitchcock about her, further emphasized by Alberto Iglesias’ Bernard Herrmann-like score.
What’s interesting: In the 1990s, Almodóvar would have hit you over the head with the reference. Here he presents it with the lightest touch, so that you catch it, even as you’re registering everything else. Almodóvar used to be able to do one thing at a time. Now he can do several things at once. He gives us the etymology of the character, but also the subtle variations, even as he’s conveying the power dynamic in the room, and staying focused on Julieta.
The directorial gift is one of the oddest, in a sense, because it’s the hardest to explain or define. Suffice it to say that Almodóvar presents this material in a way that never splits our attention, even as he’s giving us a deluge of sensory and emotional detail. It’s as if he’s internalized the story so completely that he can’t make a gesture — can’t move the camera, can’t shape a moment — without saying something true.
Copyright 2017 San Francisco Chronicle
Visually splendid and beautifully performed
By Doris Toumarkine
Julieta, Spain’s entry for the 2016 Best Foreign Language Oscar and multiple nominee in the top categories in the upcoming 29th European Film Awards, conjures considerable emotional and emphatic visual dividends inspired by the Alice Munro source material. In its story of a mother’s anguish and the intrigue behind her daughter’s rejection, the film offers a wealth of authentic portrayals of relatable younger and older modern Spaniards in both urban and regional settings. This lushly produced, deeply felt Spanish production, often in love with vibrant, life-giving reds, provides a highly entertaining and engrossing cinematic journey that should drive positive critical reaction and word of mouth.
At the forefront of this drama is the eponymous Julieta (Emma Suárez), first met as a comfortable, attractive 40-something Madrid resident planning a getaway with boyfriend Lorenzo (Darío Grandinetti) on an extended visit to Portugal. But out on the Madrid streets, she bumps into Beatriz (Michelle Jenner), her daughter Antía’s best friend for many years since they were pre-teens but now a successful fashion journalist with Vogue. Beatriz surprises Julieta with news that she herself accidentally bumped into Julieta’s daughter Antía now living at Lake Como with her three children. What Beatriz does not know as she runs off with her trendy très gay fashion friends is that Julieta has been estranged from Antía for many years.
This chance encounter triggers a crisis for Julieta, a rush of memories and a new priority. She abruptly calls off her Portugal getaway with Lorenzo and even the relationship itself. Flashbacks, seamlessly integrated with a present-day, increasingly haunted Julieta, ensue to enlighten on this mother’s exacerbating situation. We first meet a 20-something Julieta (the wisely chosen Adriana Ugarte) as a substitute high-school classics literature teacher who is clearly very capable and liked by her students. With the return of the regular teacher, Julieta finds herself without a job but with some time to travel. On a night train she meets handsome young fisherman Xoan (Daniel Grao), returning to his seaside home. Chemistry is instantaneous—they connect, and after the train continues on its way after an accident, make passionate love in a darkened compartment.
Back in Madrid and now pregnant, Julieta received a letter from Xoan inviting her to visit him. She brings him the news of the pregnancy, and they later marry and live happily at Xoan’s charming waterfront home near his fishing boat. Young daughter Antía (Priscilla Delgado as a child and Blanca Parés as the teenage girl) is a happy addition to the household. Betraying as a pre-teener some tomboy leanings, she is determined to become a fisherman like her beloved father. But things grow complicated after Antía is sent off to camp. Making matters murkier is Ava (Inma Cuesta), the local artist who was friend to both Xoan and his late wife. And there’s the shadow thrown by Marian (frequent Almodóvar star Rossy de Palma), Xoan’s longtime housekeeper, who is a sinister, meddling presence not unlike the mysterious Mrs. Danvers of Rebecca.
But it’s Antía’s friendship with Beatriz at camp that becomes another big turning point in the story. Their closeness continues well into and maybe beyond adolescence, followed by the daughter’s withdrawal to a kind of cultish Pyrénees mountain retreat. When Julieta tries to spring her, she finds a big, insurmountable brick wall amidst so much pastoral splendor.
Julieta’s strong points are many, especially the fine performances across the board, with Suárez so affecting in her role of the anguished mother. Jean-Claude Larrieu serves up eye candy with his lush photography and capture of fine production design, whether gorgeous mountains, foamy oceans or handsome interiors. And, as if counterpointing the splashes of Almodóvar-emphatic reds, Alberto Iglesias’ score hits the grey Sirk-Hitchcock notes of powerful inner feelings. Julieta surprises up to its final moments.