It wasn’t until the closing credits of Pedro Almodóvar’s feature that I realized it was adapted from Alice Munro short stories—and suddenly my frustration made a lot more sense. He begins with an intriguing set-up: Middle-aged Julieta (Emma Suárez) is preparing to move from Madrid with her boyfriend, when a chance encounter on the street leads her to re-examine her relationship with her estranged daughter, as it unfolds in flashback (with Adriana Ugarte as the younger Julieta). The mysteries of Julieta’s various relationships become the meat of the narrative, with Almodóvar providing his singular visual flair; the shot in which Suárez takes the character back from Ugarte is a deliciously ingenious transition. But while the performances and musical score build the sense that this is a vintage Almodóvar psychodrama—a Patricia Highsmith reference feels all-too-clear a nudge—the direction of the source material feels profoundly out of step with the director’s style. Do the expectations built by an auteur’s work affect the experience as a new one unfolds? Perhaps so—but it’s jarring to watch a director seem to be steering a story into being something it isn’t.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Producer: Esther García and Agustín Almodóvar
Cast: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, Pilar Castro, Nathalie Poza, Susi Sánchez, Joaquin Notario, Priscilla Delgado, Blanca Parés and Rossy de Palma