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Review: Volver

This was only the second Almodovar film I've seen, but already I understand the great appreciation he receives as a director. This is a clever and unusual film, but still accessible and easy to understand. The plot was dramatic and surprising, and typically Almodovar is its combination of shocking circumstances with ordinary domestic life. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, because its charm is how it reveals itself, but let's just say there's a lot of death and incest! Yet as shocking as that sounds, the film isn't about shocking its viewer, but instead endearing us to the wonderful characters.

The five female characters who lead the film are not perfect but all very likeable. They span three generations - Raimunda (played by Penelopé Cruz), her sister Soledad and their friend Agustina, plus Raimunda's daughter, Paula, and Raimunda and Soledad's mother, Irene. These women are strong and funny and inspiring throughout. The only men in the film are peripheral characters, and none of the women end the film being swept off their feet by some handsome bloke. This is really a film about the power of strong women when they work together, not against each other as they often do in films.

Volver is just as impressive visually as its dialogue and plot. The style is simple but so colourful, which gives it a vibrancy to match its characters personalities. Penelopé Cruz looks amazing in every scene, which does make it rather hard to believe that her character is just a poor working woman, but her acting seems good so she deserves the part. This film has a real feel-good charm, and it's the kind that even people who wouldn't normally watch arty or foreign films would still enjoy, as its dramatic storyline and engaging characters transcend language barriers.