Saturday, May 15, 2010

Maggie 2010: Volver

#66. Volver

As a fan of Pedro Almodovar's films, I really wanted to love Volver. I ended up liking it. Volver stars Penelope Cruz as Raimunda, mother and daughter in this film about family secrets, love, forgiveness, and solidarity. A magical realist piece, Volver's central plot involves the town's spiritualism finding purchase in the return of sisters Raimunda and Sole's dead mother, Paula, who for years as a ghost counselled their aunt, Irene, and after Irene's death turned to Sole to help find peace for their family's dark history. This history resonates especially well with the present, as Raimunda's daughter, Paula, is early on forced to kill someone, and cover-up efforts between the two of them add considerable complications to their day-to-day lives.

I had difficulty suspending disbelief with this one, which was why some lovely moments and images ultimately glazed over in my mind. With so many years in which ghost-Paula was around, helping Irene, why did she wait so ever-freaking long to help Raimunda come to terms with their shared past? And as for young Paula's kill, which happens early on, why in blazes was the obvious course of action to hide the evidence? In Thelma & Louise I can completely understand the reasoning behind not waiting for the police, but in Volver Paula is so young, and the act so straightforward, that I was bewildered by the sudden impetus driving mother and daughter to hide all evidence of the crime.

I think I hold films "about women" to a higher standard sometimes, because there's a real push to think of women as "the dreamers" and men as "the doers" in these numbers, and as such put up an impassable barrier between men and women. That may well, perfectly embody the lived experience of many social niches the world over, so I should probably cut a film like this more slack. However, suspension of disbelief is big for me, so when at two telling junctures I felt the causality of events ("Why this response? Why this revealing of the past at this time?") somewhat lacking, it was hard for me to rank the film above decent -- for its acting, and its playful images, and subtle but effective cinematography.

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