Set in 2008, with flashbacks to 1992 and 1994, it focuses on a film director (Lluis Homar) who’s lost the love of his life (Penelope Cruz) as well as his eyesight to a jealous lover.
The tricky structure is a dramatic device used to comment on and explain the events of the present and although this seems to have put some viewers off – judging by the mixed reaction it got at Cannes – is still handled impressively.
It also explores guilt and how it can weigh heavily on human relationships, suggesting that the director was possibly drawing on his own life and art, and this is served by some convincing performances.
Homar convey’s a director’s restless desire for his life and art, even when he can’t see, whilst Cruz is as emotionally convincing as she is physically striking.
Her performance is almost a post-modern wink to the relationship between a director and a leading lady.
As you might expect, Almodóvar fills the frame with some captivating images, using primary colours (especially red) as a counterpoint to the heavy emotional situations and characters.
If there is a flaw with the film, it is that it exists almost too neatly within it’s cinema-drenched world: not only is the protagonist a director, but it even references numerous auteurs such as Powell, Hitchcock, Malle, Fellini and even his own 1988 film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
Whilst this makes it a treat for cinephiles and an undoubtedly personal work for Almodóvar, it lacks the heart and feeling of his more recent works like Talk to Her and Volver.
The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc include:
Short Film: The Anthropophagic Council Woman La Concejala Antropofaga (7 mins 32 secs)
Sin Nombre (Revolver): A deeply impressive drama about immigrants trying to reach the US (the title is Spanish for “without name”) directed by Cary Fukunaga. The story explores a young Honduran woman (Paulina Gaitan) who wants to start a new life with her father and uncle in New Jersey and a Mexican gang member (Edgar Flores) and his desire to escape his violent past. [Read the full review here]
Universal will be hoping that UK cinemagoers will be pulled in by the star power of Adam Sandler and the promise of more Apatow-styled hilarity. Given the reasonable marketing campaign it is likely to do solid business but faces a good deal of competition from other national releases this Bank Holiday weekend. [Vue West End & Nationwide / Cert 15]
Optimum are the UK distributor and are giving this a decent push at the multiplexes as well as the arthouses, hoping to surf the enormous wave of critical acclaim and buzz which is likely to see it nominated at the Oscars next year.[C’world Shaftesbury Ave., Vues Finchley Rd., Islington & Nationwide / Cert 15]
Broken Embraces (Warner Bros/Pathe): The latest film from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar is a ‘romantic noir’ spanning over 16 years (set in 2008, with flashbacks to 1992 and 1994) that focuses on a film director (Lluis Homar) who’s lost the love of his life (Penelope Cruz) as well as his eyesight to a jealous lover.
The Final Destination (Entertainment): The ‘final’ chapter of the Final Destination franchise starts with a NASCAR race gone horribly wrong and then sees each teenage character who ‘cheated’ death get gruesomely killed off later.
Although a profitable money spinner for New Line (now under the larger control of Warner Bros.) this franchise now seems a little tired but studio chiefs will be eager to see how it does in 3-D. My guess is that it could do rather well (for this kind of film), so maybe we should prepare ourselves for more of its type in the future. [Vue West End & Nationwide / Cert 15]
IN LIMITED RELEASE
Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One (Momentum Pictures): The second part of the diptych about French criminal Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassell) is set in the early 1970s, as the title character gets caught and becomes addicted to his own notoriety. [Curzon Soho, Ritzy, Picturehouse Clapham & Key Cities / Cert 15]
Jetsam (ICA Cinema): A low budget British thriller from first-time British director Simon Welsford about a woman washed up on to beach with no idea how she got there.
In The Realms Of The Senses (bfi Distribution): A re-release from the BFI for this controversial 1976 Franco-Japanese film directed by Nagisa Oshima, which is a fictionalised treatment of an incident in 1930s Japan involving Sada Abe (the woman who cut over her lover’s genitals and carried them around in her handbag). It garnered huge controversy during its release, not only for its subject matter but also for the fact that it contains scenes of unsimulated sexual activity between the lead actors (Tatsuya Fuji and Eiko Matsuda). [BFI Southbank & Key Cities / Cert 18]