Stars: Adriana Ugarte, Emma Suárez, Rossy De Palma
Director: Pedro Almodóvaa
The consistently great Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar now has under his belt yet another great family-orientated film through a woman’s perspective with Julieta, that documents over two decades the life of the title character as she deals with a series of life’s hardships.
Present-day Julieta (Emma Suárez) is planning on moving from Madrid to Portugal with her boyfriend, but after a chance encounter on the streets with one of her daughter’s childhood friends, she decides to call off the move as she reminisces back on her past self (Adriana Ugarte) and her family life after meeting Xoan (Daniel Grao) on a train and eventually having a child, Antía (Priscilla Delgado), with him, amidst all the tragedies, alleged affairs, and heartbreak.
It can take a while (up to thirty minutes) for the film to really feel on track, as it switches between different little plot-points that only later have their meanings revealed in the overall story. By the time it gets up to its second third, the fractured family relations are in full motion, helped with some very affective performances on display. When the younger Julieta delivers some bad news to her adolescent daughter, the uninterrupted shot shows a range of emotions from Delgado in what ends up being one of the most heartbreaking and troubling moments of her childhood.
The film was originally titled ‘Silencio’ (which was changed to avoid confusion with Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Silence), but Julieta deals very much with silence in its final third as Julieta must deal with the elongated absence of one of her family members. It’s an intriguing ambiguous plot-point that has the audience guessing along with Julieta, though as valuable as it is to the story, it still feels forced as its ambiguous nature is teased just a little too much.
Almodóvar has made more classic films than duds and he continues to work within his familiar style without feeling like he’s retreading himself. Alongside Alfred Hitchcock and Claude Chabrol, he is making thriller-dramas with fascinating stories that draw the audience in and tantalise and excite them with their often unexpected revelations, not to mention the lavish design of each set and shot that makes this storytelling easy-going on the eyes.
Although the core conceit of Julieta may not be satisfying enough for some, everything that surrounds it is wonderful – on top of the dedicated design in sets, costumes, and make-up (as usual from Almodóvar), the acting of the two Julietas work well with each other and seamlessly piece together this character across all the years.
Julieta plays at UWA Somerville from Mon 19-Sat 24 December, 8pm, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tue 27 Dec-Sun 1 Jan, 8pm. For more info head to perthfestival.com.au.