A drama based in Spain and with an audio soundtrack in Spanish with English sub-titles.
As is sometimes the case with films by Pedro Almodóvar, it's not so much the main story that's important, rather it's the little stories built around it that hold the attention and entertain. In essence this is a tale of a blind man talking about a tragedy that took place 14 years earlier and which since then he has tried to blot out of his mind. That tragedy was the loss of his sight, and at the same time the loss of his lover. So you might think that doesn't sound particularly exciting, but there's a lot more to this film than the plot. It's about the relationships between the various leading and supporting characters. It's about abuse of power, lust, jealousy, the desire to seek revenge, and the suppression of loss and regret. Few of these points refer to leading lady Penelope Cruz, however, who plays Magdalena - or Lena as she is more often called - instead her role is relatively passive even if much of what happens revolves around her.
The film is told from two time perspectives - 2008 and (mostly) 1994. Back then, wannabe actress Lena finds herself the mistress of the very wealthy but much older power broker Ernesto Martel who allows her to pursue her dream of becoming a screen star, but in that process Lena meets and falls in love with successful film director Mateo Blanco. So begins, back in the 1990s, a love struggle between the two men, one which leads to what might have been regarded as an inevitable tragedy but for the fact that the viewer is made aware of it early on when Mateo (or Harry Caine as he now calls himself) makes reference to the life-changing moment. During both time periods Mateo/Harry is supported by his agent and manager Judit Garcia and later on her son Diego. It is in the current day scenes that Ernesto's son 'Ray X' pressures Harry to make a film about Ray's life, or at least about a character clearly based on Ray himself - and Harry knows only too well who Ray's father is and how he, in effect, took Lena away in the worst possible circumstances.
At 127 minutes the film is a little bit too long, and did drag slightly at times. The main reaction I had though was one of mild anti-climax; it's very good but Pedro Almodóvar is one of my favourite directors and film makers and I had sky-high expectations. As it is, I feel that Penelope Cruz carries the film to an extent, such is her magnetic screen appeal and photogenic draw. There was at least one reference to Audrey Hepburn in the script and this was presumably deliberate irony as Cruz reminded me of one or two Hepburn characters, most notably when the film-within-the-film was being made. I do wonder if Broken Embraces would have quite the same impact without Penelope Cruz in it - purely for her beauty. Quite simply, this is very good but not quite in the same league as other Pedro Almodóvar successes such as Talk To Her and Volver.
This being a Blu-Ray disc, it should stand out for its visual and aural qualities relative to a standard DVD, and in the main I would say that it does. One of the more memorable HD scenes took place in the kitchen when Lena was slicing some tomatoes; the picture quality was stunning. Overall the colour palette was excellent and played a part in the overall impression of the film as a whole, and as always the musical soundtrack was very good too, if not as mesmeric as in Talk to Her (for example).
Extras included a re-run with English commentary, a 7-minute short film, and three deleted scenes. I must admit that I would have liked the choice of an English-dubbed soundtrack, it might have lost its authenticity but it would be nice to have had the option at least.
A very good film, then, a must for Pedro Almodóvar fans of course but not one that will stand out among his portfolio in years to come.