“Volver” begins with Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) coming home from a long day at work to find a nightmare spilling out onto her kitchen floor. Her husband lays dead after trying to take advantage of her daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), who stabbed him in self-defense.
Raimuda does what any self-respecting woman would do: She grabs a roll of paper towels and cleans up the last mess her husband will ever make, then stashes the body in a neighbor’s restaurant’s freezer. The body remains there as a reminder of what happened, as Raimunda tries to figure out how she and her daughter can bury the evening’s tragedy. This is only the beginning of a series of unexpected events that ultimately turn Raimunda’s family upside-down.
“Volver” (the Spanish word for “to return”), directed by internationally acclaimed Pedro Almodóvar, won’t disappoint fans of the director. His latest film captures the heart of Spanish culture and the unmistakable bond mothers have with their daughters. He highlights the love of family and friends with his shots of the typical kiss-on-the-cheek greeting, provoking strong emotions from audiences as they gaze into the eyes of real characters dealing with extraordinary situations.
Cruz gives a genuine performance of a single mother trying to do the best for her family. She outshines most of her previous English speaking roles as she connects with her Spanish roots, working with the director who she claims inspired her to want to become an actress when she saw one of his films as a child.
In the film, Raimunda’s mother (Carmen Maura) returns after years of being presumed dead. Raimunda’s sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) initially believes her to be “una fantasma” (a ghost) but she soon takes her mother in and puts her to work in the illegal salon she runs in her apartment. As the film unwinds, the reasons for the mother’s absence become clear, revealing the tragic and joyous similarities the three generations of women share; they have all been scared by the men they loved, and as a result, taken charge of their situation. As an Almodóvar film veteran, Maura gives a touching performance as a flamboyant woman trying to make up for her past mistakes. She leaves a lasting impression on audiences, whether she has them laughing at her hiding under the bed from her own daughter, or crying at their dramatic reunion.
“Volver” is just one of the Spanish films sneaking its way into American movie theaters. With the success of movies like “Volver” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Spanish films in mainstream America could prove a trend that will entertain audiences and introduce a them to a new culture and ideas that will spice up the all-too-predictable film industry. Almodóvar is sure to gain a brighter spotlight in this country, as new audiences are discovering the talent the rest of the world has know about for years.
“Volver” was written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
“Volver” received three out of four stars.