Spanish for "Coming Back," Volver
is a return to the all-female format of All About My Mother
. Unlike Pedro Almodóvar's previous two pictures, the story revolves around a group of women in Madrid and his native La Mancha. (The cast received a collective best actress award at Cannes.) Raimunda (a zaftig Penélope Cruz) is the engine powering this heartfelt, yet humorous vehicle. When husband Paco (Antonio de la Torre) is murdered, Raimunda makes like Mildred Pierce to deflect attention away from daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo). After telling everyone the lout has left, she struggles to conceal his body. The other women in her life all have secrets of their own. Her sister, Sole (Lola Dueñas), for instance, has taken in their mother, Irene (a sprightly Carmen Maura). Since Irene perished in a fire, is this person a ghost or simply a woman who looks like her? Then there's their childhood friend, Agustina (Blanca Portillo), who is desperate to find out why her mother disappeared after the blaze. Was she responsible? Almodóvar deftly blends the ghost story with the murder mystery in his tribute to the Italian neo-realist films of the 1950s. The resilient Raimunda is a throwback to the earthy heroines of Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani. The latter appears in Luchino Visconti's Bellissima
, which shows up on Sole's television one night (thus confirming the link). If Almodóvars 16th feature lacks the emotional punch of the more audacious Talk to Her
, it's less heavy-handed than Bad Education
and Cruz is a revelation. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Director Pedro Almodovar's acclaimed supernatural-themed comedy starring Penelope Cruz. Cruz plays a Madrid mother and housewife of a drunk husband. She and her hairdressing sister are orphans by dint of a house fire back home in rural LaMancha. When their sole surviving relative there - their mum's sister - passes on, her past habit of talking to the girls' mother as if she were still on the mortal plane takes on a new and chilling significance.