“Art always finds a way to reflect reality at that moment”
‘Julieta’, directed by Pedro Almodóvar in 2016, is a Spanish drama that charts the life of the title character, played by Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte. The movie opens with Julieta about to move to Portugal with her boyfriend, Lorenzo, when a chance encounter with a childhood friend of her estranged daughter send her into a spiral of compulsive behaviour including abandoning her future plans, settling in Madrid and writing her life story. This is the backbone of a series of extended flashbacks that follow her as she falls in love with a fisherman, has a baby, loses her husband, has a breakdown, and then loses her daughter. It’s a movie threaded with the themes of loss, guilt, mourning and regret. It’s melancholic and less ironically humorous than Almodóvar’s earlier films, but there are still hints of his mannered style, most notably in the character of Marian, a waspish housemaid played by Almodóvar regular Rossy de Palma. The real achievement of the film is how Almodóvar, through the interlinked themes and subtexts, creates a consistent history of Julieta. In one scene, the title character’s daughter helps dry her hair after a breakdown in the bath, her face is covered with a towel. When uncovered, the actress has changed from Ugarte to Suárez, the breakdown being the nexus point between the two ages of the character. The fact that Almodóvar convinces us that the character is the same is a testament to his structural and thematic construction of the film. It’s a dark subject matter, but one that is interlaced with moments of colour and optimism. In the end it’s a movie about empathy and how long it sometimes takes to achieve it.
Would I recommend it? Yes – but rather than watching it with another Almodóvar movie, the two films that sprang to my mind were Richard Linklater’s epic ‘Boyhood’, another intimate story told on a grand scale, or the smaller but thematically similar ‘A Tale of Winter’, directed by Éric Rohmer.