Monday, August 14, 2017
Based on a collection of short stories entitled Runaway by Alice Munro, Julieta is the story of a woman who just found the whereabouts of her long-lost daughter as she reflects on her past and the events that would shape her life. Written for the screen and directed by Pedro Almodovar, the film is a drama where a woman is eager to reconnect with her estranged daughter as well as deal with the past as the titular character is played by Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte in their respective roles as the older and younger version of the character. Also starring Inma Cuesta, Dario Grandinetti, Daniel Grao, Michelle Jenner, and Rossy de Palma. Julieta is a ravishing yet chilling film from Pedro Almodovar.
The film follows the life of a woman who has been disconnected from her daughter for 13 years as an encounter with a friend of her daughter gives her news about her daughter’s whereabouts. This revelation would prompt Julieta to look back at her life from the moment she would meet the man who would be the father of their child to the tragedy that would shape everything. Pedro Almodovar’s screenplay would base itself on three different stories Alice Munro as it is largely told in a reflective manner by the older Julieta as she writes her story dating back to the 1980s where she was just a literature substitute teacher where she met Xoan (Daniel Grao) on a train to Madrid where Julieta encountered something horrible that would bring her and Xoan together. It’s among these series of intense moments that would affect Julieta as she would spend much of the first act with Xoan at his seaside home where he’s a fisherman while they would have a daughter in Antia with the help of a friend of his late wife in Ava (Inma Cuesta) and a longtime family maid in Marian (Rossy de Palma).
The second act isn’t just about the dysfunction in Julieta’s family life but also the events that would cause this slow rift between her and Antia (Priscilla Delgado) which would be set in Madrid for the film’s second half as Antia becomes close with her friend Beatriz (Sara Jimenez) whom she met at a summer camp. When Antia (Blanca Pares) gets older, things get more troubling as it would lead to Antia disconnecting herself from Julieta causing all sorts of things for the film’s third act. Especially when Julieta would find a new love in Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti) as she tries to not think about Antia until her encounter with Beatriz (Michelle Jenner) that changes everything. All of which would play into not just the sense of guilt that looms throughout Julieta but also grief as she would lose a lot in her life where she becomes unsure if she wants to re-establish contact with Antia.
Almodovar’s direction is definitely exquisite as it features images and compositions that are gorgeous as well as capture so much into the frame. Shot partially on Madrid with other locations in Rias Altas, La Sierra in Huelva, Pantcosa, Fanlo, and the Pyrenees Mountains, Almodovar creates a film that is quite rich in not just the different locations in Spain but also a film that showcases the different lifestyles that Julieta would endure for much of her life. While the older Julieta is seen mainly in Madrid living in somewhat-posh apartments and later returning to the more quaint apartment she had years earlier when she was living with Antia. Almodovar’s usage of the wide shots play into some of the locations as well as a few scenes at some of the homes that Julieta would go including her family country home during a visit to her parents. Yet, Almodovar would favor more intimate shots with the usage of close-ups and medium shots as he would go into great detail for the former in some shots.
There are moments in the film that do contain some element of surrealism such as the scenes on the train where Julieta and Xoan watch a stag chasing the train while Almodovar would employ some tracking shots and intricate compositions in where to place the actors in a shot. There is something masterful in the compositions that Almodovar creates as it captures so much detail into a shot as well as shooting different scenes on a particular location to play into this idea of the past and the guilt that Julieta carries as she reflects on the mistakes she made in her life as well as tragedy. Even as Almodovar is willing to do something simple as well as keep things in the open as it’s all about what is next step in Julieta’s life. Overall, Almodovar crafts an intoxicating yet haunting film about a woman looking back at the tragedies that would affect her life and relationship with her daughter.
Cinematographer Jean-Claude Larrieu does amazing work with the film’s very colorful and lush cinematography that feature a lot of natural images for the daytime exterior scenes with some low-key lighting for some of the interiors and scenes set at night. Editor Jose Salcedo does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts in some parts of the film as well as some straightforward cutting to play into the drama. Production designer Antxon Gomez, with set decorator Federico Garcia Cambero and art director Carlos Bodelon, does brilliant work with the look of the different homes that Julieta had lived in throughout her life to the posh look of the apartment she shares with Lorenzo to the quaint apartment she lived in with Antia as well as the home near the sea. Costume designer Sonia Grande does fantastic work with the costumes from the clothes that Julieta wore during the 80s and 90s to a more reserved look once she is in her 40s and 50s as it help play into the evolution of her character.
Makeup designer Ana Lopez-Puigcerver does nice work with the makeup from way Julieta looked like early on her young life with the different hairstyles and such as well as the look of Marian. The special effects work of Kings Abbots and Eduardo Diaz do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it is mostly set-dressing for a few shots revolving around the sea. The sound work of Sergio Burmann is superb for its natural approach to the sound as well as some of the sound effects that play into some of the key moments of the film. The film’s music by Alberto Iglesias is incredible as it features a mixture of piano-based music and heavy orchestral music that help broaden the drama as well as some of the film’s darker moments as it is a major highlight of the film.
The casting by Eva Leira and Yolanda Serrano is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Mariam Bachir as the maid for Julieta’s parents, Priscilla Delgado as the young Antia, Sara Jimenez as the young Beatriz, Pilar Castro as Beatriz’s mother Claudia, Ramon Agirre as a landlord of the apartment that Julieta used to live with Antia, Nathalie Poza as the head of a spiritual retreat compound that Antia went to before she disappeared, Joaquin Notario as Julieta’s father, Susi Sanchez as Julieta’s Alzheimer-stricken mother Sara, and Blanca Pares as the 18-year old Antia who would go on a spiritual retreat and never return without explaining to anyone including her own mother. Rossy de Palma is fantastic as Marian as Xoan’s longtime family maid who watches over everything as well as keep some very dark secrets relating to Xoan as well as some things she would tell Antia. Michelle Jenner is superb as Antia’s longtime childhood friend Beatriz who would have an encounter with Julieta as she would eventually tell her some things about Antia and why they became estranged.
Dario Grandinetti is excellent as Julieta’s current lover in Lorenzo whom Julieta would meet in life through mutual means as he wonders why Julieta has suddenly changed their plans to move to Portugal. Inma Cuesta is brilliant as Ava as a friend of Xoan who was close to Xoan’s late wife as she would befriend Julieta as well as provide some information about what Marian told Antia later in the film. Daniel Grao is amazing as Xoan as a fisherman who would meet Julieta at a train as they fall in love and have a family as he’s this quiet man that loves to fish as he also keeps some secrets from Julieta. Finally, there’s Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as the younger and older version of the titular character. Ugarte brings an anguish and melodrama to her approach as the young Julieta as a woman trying to find herself and be a working mother as well as cope with the tragedies in and around her life. Suarez’s performance as the older Julieta is more reserved as someone who has been through a lot yet there is a sequence that showcases the sense of hurt and anger as someone who felt betrayed and heartbroken.
Julieta is a spectacular film from Pedro Almodovar that features sensational performances from Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte in the titular role. Along with its gorgeous visuals, top-notch technical work, a sumptuous score by Alberto Iglesias, a great supporting cast, and an engaging take on grief and guilt. It’s a film that explores loss in a lot of ways as well as a woman dealing with the events in her life and wondering what she could’ve done to change them. In the end, Julieta is a tremendous film from Pedro Almodovar.
Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - Dark Habits - What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Matador - Law of Desire - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - High Heels - Kika - The Flower of My Secret - Live Flesh - All About My Mother - Talk to Her - Bad Education - Volver - Broken Embraces - The Skin I Live In - I'm So Excited! - Pain & Glory - (The Human Voice (2020 short film)) - (Parallel Mothers)
The Auteurs #37: Pedro Almodovar Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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