Julieta: Film Review
Cast: Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Jumping between 30 years of one woman's life, director Pedro Almodovar's latest is a colour-soaked Greek tragedy of a story that circumnavigates Hitchcock, mystery and romance with relative ease.
Suarez is Julieta, who, as the film starts is packing up her life in Madrid and getting ready to move abroad with new love Lorenzo. But a chance encounter on the streets with another woman from her past sets her away from this course of action and into abandoning her plans.
As she sits down to reflect, she begins to write a long letter to someone from her past - and the film traverses a leap into the past where Julieta's younger version (played with dazzling ease by new find Adriana Ugarte) is a classics teacher and who has a chance encounter on a train with Xoan (Grao) that becomes so much more...
With flashbacks and a soundtrack that feels like it's straight out of mystery film with the beats it hits as well as some striking use of colour, Almodovar's latest is, for the first half at least, a film that has intrigue painted through its DNA as it weaves together three short stories from Alice Munro.
But during one pivotal moment, an action by a main character (which cannot be revealed here for its spoiler nature) feels so jarringly unrealistic and inhuman that it jolts you out of belief from the film and causes the rest of the emotional consequences to fail to hit at all.
It's a crippling shot to the film which hitherto has worked its immense charm thanks to Suarez's turn and the enigmatic Ugarte as the younger version. With talk of Ulysses and the siren, the allegory of a fisherman falling for a mysterious woman may be a little heavy handed but in works in large parts as the meditation on grief and guilt shifts away from a casual love story to a supposedly deeper and darker piece.
Julieta may be intended to deliver an emotional sucker punch but its frustrating flaws in the back half mean the investment of the first feels squandered as the drama shifts into melodramatic territory. Granted, the Spanish auteur may still be working well, but based on the pacing of Julieta, he's not firing on all cylinders.