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Inma Cuesta (left) and Adriana Ugarte in a still from Julieta (category IIB, Spanish), directed by Pedro Almodovar.

Review | Film review: Julieta – Pedro Almodovar adapts Alice Munro for tender melodrama on motherhood

Spanish director’s sombre, mature tale of a fractured mother-daughter relationship elegantly cuts between past and present

Film reviews

4/5 stars

Pedro Almodovar’s 20th film is a world away from its direct predecessor, the breezy farce set on an airliner, I’m So Excited! . If that was a return to his early comedies, Julieta is far more in line with his more recent heavyweight work. Call it All About Her Daughter if you like, but this tale of a mother and her fractured relationship with her offspring is up there with Almodovar’s best.

The film is freely adapted from three Canadian-set short stories by Nobel-winning writer Alice Munro, and the director truly makes them his. We first meet Julieta (Emma Suarez) as she’s considering leaving Madrid to live with her partner in Portugal. But a chance encounter sends her thinking about her daughter Anita, who she hasn’t seen for years.

Emma Suarez in a still from Julieta.
It transpires that Anita (played at various points by Ariadna Matin, Priscilla Delgado and Blanca Pares) went to a religious retreat, and never came back. Well-placed flashbacks flesh out the back story, right back to when Julieta (played here by Adriana Ugarte) conceived Anita after meeting her fisherman father, Xoan (Daniel Grao), on a train.

Almodovar aficionados will relish seeing the return of his regular star Rossy de Palma, here kitted out in a frizzy wig and with stern expression as Xoan’s housekeeper, who provides some levity in an otherwise sombre story. Elegantly cutting between past and present – notably with one show-stopping transition – it’s a desperately sad story at times, weighed down with a sense of lost years.

A mature work, Julieta is exactly the sort of a film a director in their advancing years makes. Bravo, Pedro.

Julieta opens on September 15

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