REVIEW: Broken Embraces

30 05 2010

The cinematic embrace provided by Pedro Almodóvar’s “Broken Embraces” eludes description.  It has its moments of tragedy, so it can’t really be called a warm embrace.  Yet it has such beautiful, soaring moments that it can’t exactly be called a bittersweet embrace.

The only thing certain about “Broken Embraces” is that its embrace will absolutely envelop you.  From the moment we encounter the blind filmmaker Mateo Blanco, now under the Americanized pseudonym Harry Caine, working through his disability, it’s impossible not to get hooked into the drama.  It dabbles in the occasional melodrama, but Almodóvar handles it with such skill that it can really only be noticed when looking back at the movie in retrospect.

I’m not sure that I would say that the writing floored me quite like a “Volver” or “Talk to Her;” nonetheless, I want to be careful not to reveal too much about the delicate plot.  Almodóvar develops a fairly intricate story, but it never feels like work for an audience to put it together.

Here’s what you should know: this is a movie about “sex, secrets, and cinema,” as the back of the DVD case so eloquently puts it.  Penelope Cruz may be the movie’s poster child, but her character Lena is hardly the focus.  Sure, she sets the plot in motion; however, this is Mateo’s movie.  Before he became blind, he made a movie called “Chicas y Maletas” (“Girls and Suitcases,” for you non-Spanish speakers out there) in which he cast Lena.  But she came with some baggage of her own: an obsessed lover, Ernesto Martel, who insists on producing the film and having his homosexual son document the production.  What follows?  I’m not saying.

Cruz is hauntingly beautiful as Lena, and it’s another role that she knocks out of the park.  None of her co-stars outshine her – but her director does.  Almodóvar commands this movie (as all directors should), and his passion for cinema exudes from the film.  Everything in the movie just seemed so orderly, from the beautiful sets to the bright colors to the precision of the acting, and “Broken Embraces” explodes off the screen.  B+ /

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3 responses

30 05 2010
Simon/Ripley

I kind of love this movie, how self-confided it is, how it’s both large scale and small set. Excellent review.

31 05 2010
Danny King

Like you mentioned several times in your review, this is definitely a film for film lovers. The story isn’t anything revolutionary, but the luxurious presentation and Cruz’s beautiful performance are so mesmerizing. The supporting cast is also at the top of their game.

31 05 2010
Marshall

True, I didn’t touch much on the supporting cast. They were all very good, particularly Ernesto’s son.

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