Broken Embraces

13 Sep

Director: Pedro Almodovar (2009)

I am hesitant to write a review of this film at the risk of taking away the sheer joy, anticipation and emotional experience that comes with watching Broken Embraces…or any Almodovar film for that matter. Instead I will take this opportunity to write an ode to the mastery of Almodovar.

As someone who is by no means ashamed of my feminist sympathies and someone who has big love for all things Spanish, my love affair with Almodovar was destined to happen. Broken Embraces combines all the Almodovar classics, strong powerful women, saturated colours, a soundtrack of perfection, passion, love, betrayal. And Penelope Cruz- of course. However, with surprisingly less cleavage than usual…

In the briefest of summarys, the story introduces Harry Caine, a blind writer sharing his life with his agent Judit and her son Diego. From the opening scenes, he seems happy with his life, he is successful, both professionally and personally- judging by the sex scene thrown in there within the first 20 minutes. However, when he hears of the death of millionaire Ernesto Martel, his past is violently brought into his present. The narrative splits to fill in the blanks as Harry tells Diego his story of treachery and passion tied to loss of love, loss of sight and of his former self. Through flashbacks to the 1990s, when Harry Caine was known as Mateo Blanco, a famous film director, we learn of his affair with the breathtakingly beautiful Lena (Penelope Cruz) while filming his latest film, Chicas y Maletas- apparently based on Almodovar’s Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown. Oh and Lena is married to Ernesto Martel so you can only image the intertwined debauchery Almodovar lets loose on our screens.

I find it hard to think of any other director who can weave such a realistic and inclusive representation of human relationships than ole Almodovar. Granted, the stories themselves are not always that groundbreaking, but sometimes I think this is intentional to allow us deeper access to the characters. For me, character driven films are so much more entertaining than those ruled by high speed chases and plots so weaved and twisted they begin to resemble the bottom of my childhood yarn bag. (I feel a domesticated metaphor is quite apt when describing Almodovar’s films). In the same way Tarantino has his band of merry men who appear in all this films, I love the Almodovar family. Penelope Cruz can do no wrong under his guidance and the hidden gem, Blanca Portillo, who also played Agustina in Volver, portrays Judit’s sadness at harbouring her secret treachery to perfection.

Perhaps my favourite moment in the film is perhaps hardly a moment at all but one that really resonated with me. After the accident that claims Mateo/Harry’s sight, he tears up all his photographs of him and Lena. Back in the present, we see Diego piecing them back together. In a beautiful shot, the camera pans out revealing thousands of pieces of photographs of the couple, broken embraces if you will. But as with many broken things, they can be fixed. Whether it is with cellotape or by the truth. Both solutions that are exercised in the film.

A beautiful cast, a beautiful film by a beautiful director with all the glamour and mystique of film noir imbued with the effortless stylings and colours of the 1950s. But I think much of the beauty comes from this lady:



One Response to “Broken Embraces”

  1. Water Cooler December 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    Penelope Cruz, oh well, she is classic beauty. Very adorable -“

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