Starring: Adriana Ugarte, Emma Suárez, Rossy De Palma
After a chance encounter with one of the childhood friends of her estranged daughter, Julieta (Suárez) decides to reflect upon what has happened in her life and the many tragic moments and confront why her daughter decided to leave.
There will always of course be the arguments that women are underrepresented in films in terms of the stories of films, hence most unfortunately failing the fames Bechdel test, even some mainstream films that feature a predominantly female case. Well whether that is the case is an argument for another day, but one director who can never face such allegations is Pedro Almodóvar, the key focus of his films are often female characters, and Julieta is no exception.
The key focus of the narrative is solely on one woman and the story of her life and all the predominantly tragic moments that have led to the life she currently leads. However, despite this initial premise Julieta is not simply a clichéd melodrama. Admittedly it features an element of contrivance and cliché at times, but Almodóvar as both an extremely talented and experienced filmmaker knows how to extract an extremely engrossing narrative from a story that could easily be depicted as melodramatic cliché, and he skilfully produces in Julieta a film that is emotionally engaging from start to finish.
Mothers have often played key roles in Almodóvar’s films, and the titular character of Julieta is first and foremost a mother, but through the parallel narratives we are gradually told of the often tragic developments that have shaped her life. However, though there are certainly many bleak moments, these do feel overly emphasized and it allows the film to explore its key, and very relatable themes such as loss and regret in a measured, purposeful way that makes the narrative deeply engaging and the character of Julieta deeply sympathetic.
Almodóvar remains in complete control of his film from start to finish and the measured pace of the film means that the audience are informed of key revelations as the narrative goes along, making the narrative all the more emotionally involving for it. Often suggestion, body language or facial expression are used instead of simple exposition, making for a far more rewarding viewing experience. The audience’s emotional involvement is only enhanced by the films rich atmosphere; Alberto Iglesias’ superb score fully complements both the tone and pace of the story. Julieta also features throughout Almodóvar’s usual visual trademark of primary colours dominating the screen, and Jean-Claude Larrieu’s wonderful cinematography enhances the film’s luscious visuals.
Another key element as to why Julieta works so well are the performances; Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suárez are both exceptional as the younger and present day Julieta. The both deliver the complex and predominantly internal traumas and emotions that Julieta experiences perfectly, only serving to make the character all the more sympathetic. Of course one of the most important elements too any drama is that the audience acres about the main character, and we cannot help but care about Julieta and want to seek the answers and resolutions that she seeks.
One of the key challenges Almodóvar faced with Julieta was always going to be how to deliver an ending that is satisfying, appropriate and on a par with the high standards the story sets. Well, though there is certainly an undeniable element of contrivance, this is just about forgivable, as it is a very well judged ending. Perhaps not all questions will be answered, but the ending is presented in a way that is both suitable and in tune with the style of the story that precedes it and makes for a very emotionally satisfying film and one that will resonate with the viewer for a long time after watching.
A film that is emotionally engaging and satisfying on many levels; Julieta deals with the many complexities of the human condition and examines many relatable themes in a measured, intelligent way.