A mother’s love and how much she can do for love is too much to fathom. And one of the best movies dealing with this complexity is this 2006 Spanish film.
Volver, Spanish for “to come back”, is a film directed by Pedro Almodóvar and stars five outstanding female actresses including Penelope Cruz.
The movie details the intertwined lives of five women – Irene and her daughters Sole and Raimunda, Raimunda’s daughter Paula, and their friend Augustina. Sisters Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) and Sole grew up in a small village in La Mancha but now both live in Madrid. Their parents died in a tragic fire three years earlier. One day, Sole has to return to their village to attend to her aunt’s death. There, she encounters the ghost of their mother Irene, and when she returns to Madrid, the ghost also goes along with her. Sole is frightened but agrees to let her mother stay with her. Meanwhile, Raimunda and her daughter Paula have a different death to cope with. Paula accidentally kills her father when he attempts to rape her. Raimunda quickly hides the corpse in a freezer of a nearby unused restaurant. To keep the secret hidden, she manages to run the restaurant again and deals to cater for different events. Later, Raimunda undertakes the task of disposing her husband’s remains. To accomplish this, Raimunda leaves her daughter Paula to her sister Sole. But this is such a fateful thing to do! Paula sees her grandmother’s ghost and grows close to her. What revelations will be further exposed? What will Paula learn from her grandmother’s ghost? What has really happened in that fire three years before?
Volver has so much themes. According to director Almodóvar, the movie “is precisely about death… More than about death itself, the screenplay talks about the rich culture that surrounds death in the region of La Mancha, where I was born.” There are two deaths in the movie, and how each mother deals and copes with death is quite different. One chooses to stay behind the shadows and waits for the appropriate time to redeem herself, while the other faces death and resolves to make “good” of it. This also deals with two stories between mother and daughter – one is estranged by death and lies, while the other builds itself over loss and secret.
Watching the movie is like reading a Charles Dickens’ book. There are several characters involved, events are sluggish especially at the beginning, and audiences will keep on wondering where the story will lead to. Yet in the end, everything will fall into place, the significance of each character’s role will be highlighted, and the audience will empathize with the emotional turmoil with the characters.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie an approval rating of 91%. Volver also appeared in many critics’ top ten lists of the best films of 2006, including critics in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Rolling Stone, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. It received several wins and nominations including the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, BAFTA Awards, Cesar Awards, Goya Awards, Cannes Film Festival, and many others. Penelope Cruz’s performance in the film was also well-acclaimed and awarded. In the box office, Volver is one of the top-grossing foreign language films of all time.
I will give the film three and a half stars out of five. The film has great storyline but I find it too complex. I have to watch it a second time to fully comprehend its message and only then I appreciated it. Also, the first half of the film is quite slow and the fact that audiences has so few ideas where the story goes may discourage them from watching the movie until the end. However, it is hard to discredit what many critics have to say about the film so I will still say it is a meaningful and worthy film.