Julieta (2016)

Viewed January 5th

In this Pedro Almodóvar film, the past rushes back for a woman who hears news of her daughter for the first time in twelve years. 

There is a line in Julieta that relates to the film as a whole. A character admits that he had been hiding around shadowy corners, spying on someone else, but when he realized he'd been "acting like an obsessive in a Patricia Highsmith novel," he had to stop: it had gone too far. Likewise, Julieta dips into the world of psychological suspense but never far enough for that style to feel justified. Almodóvar employs a highly romantic, Hitchcockian cinematic style to what amounts to realistic, slice-of-life material drawn from three stories by the writer Alice Munro. You can imagine the idea forming as he read the stories: what if I took this material and filmed it like Marnie? There are moments when it works but for the most part something feels off. The Hitchcock style, in which the camera does not portray reality but shapes a stylized, highly psychological world, seems to demand a certain heightened unreality or gothic sensibility. Instead, the actual story is smaller and more intimate, something, say, Rohmer or Kenneth Lonergan would be intuitively better suited for directing. If Almodóvar had tweaked things a bit, perhaps ditching so many scenes developing the Xoan-Julieta love story and, instead, focusing more on the psychology of the Julieta-Antía mother-daughter relationship, it could have been more satisfying, but that's not what's on-screen.