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4.3 out of 5 stars
Volver [DVD] [2006]
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2007
I believe this is the third time that Penelope Cruz has worked with Pedro Almodovar and whilst she may have given some terrible performances in English (and been eclipsed for a while by the media nightmare that is a relationship with the other Cruise) she proves herself to be a quite exceptional actress in Volver.

Meaning 'The Return' Volver begins in the village of Alcanfor de las Infantas; a superstitious place, where it is said that the East Wind drives many inhabitants insane. Raimunda (Cruz), her daughter and her sister Soledad have come to visit the grave of their mother who was killed in a fire with her husband. Whilst there they visit their aunt Paula who, a little senile and through milk-bottle glasses, tells them that their mother is alive and living with her. Back home in Madrid, Raimunda comes home from work one day to find her daughter looking disturbed. She has stabbed the man she thought to be her father after he drunkenly tried to rape her. Whilst she deals with this Raimunda is called by her sister to be told their aunt has died. It is when returning from the funeral on her own that Soledad hears the voice of her mother calling her from the boot of the car.

The performances are all exceptional (the six actresses shared the Best Actress award at Cannes in 2006) but Cruz really shines in her role. When her drunken husband masturbates beside her in bed, after she has shrugged off his advances, we see her look of surprise, disgust and sadness as a tear wells in her eye. Later in the film she sings the song Volver to a restaurant filled by a film crew wrap party and whilst she may only be lip syncing her performance had me doubting.

Almodovar has said that the film 'is precisely about death...More than about death itself, the screenplay talks about the rich culture that surrounds death in the region of La Mancha, where I was born. It is about the way (not tragic at all) in which various female characters, of different generations, deal with this culture.' I guess that just about covers it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2007
Rare are the movies who celebrate everything that life offers. Joy and despair, love and hate, living and dying, strength and weakness, good and bad. While many movies reduce life to either good or bad, painting a very simple picture of human relationships, Almodovars movies display a wide range of emotions, where a person is a Saint and a Whore, where people laugh and cry at the same time, achieving a sense of truth that other movies seldom touch.

An everlasting wind soughs around a small village in La Mancha and the cemetery, where women are cleaning the graves of their dear ones, fighting the winds destruction of their work. This opening scene already sets the tone of the rest of the movie. There are few scenes with men present, the most prominent dies within the first half hour of the movie. In Almodovars universe the women take care of everything, they are hardworking, caring, difficult and solidarity, sharing their intimate moments with each other.

As usual there are plenty of weird, funny and tragic moments in this story (which makes it almost impossible to give a summary of the incidents). The Return from the title is true in many respects, like in all his movies it has multiple meanings. But unlike his early efforts the story here is less over the top, rings truer and is leaving a big emotional impact on you. It's impossible not to be touched by this film.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2007
This was the first Pedro Almodavar film we'd seen and had only seen Penelope Cruz once before in the undemanding role she had in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. For the first fifteen minutes or so we thought it be the equivalent of a novel in the 'magic realism' mode or somesuch and my heart sank. But no, it took off and really gripped us. Cruz was great in her role which let her take all 'certain' events that befell her family in her stride with pragmatism and even humour. Excellent movie.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2007
Pronounced bol-ber and translated loosely as "to return", "Volver" is the sixteenth full-length release from what is perhaps Spain's most recognized modern director Pedro Almodóvar; and it marks a welcome, surprisingly conventional addition to his résumé. Built around familiar themes such as family, femininity and resilience, there is one theme that looms over this work more than any other; death, and more specifically the influence of death on the living psychologically, spiritually and literally. Moreover, it uses the proposed return of the dead to show how life perpetuates itself inter-generationally.

Much of the films worldwide box office success (estimated to be over $80,000,000) has been attributed to the career-defining role of Penélope Cruz, receiving Best Actress nominations at the Oscars, Academy Awards and the Golden Globes amongst others. Cruz credits Almodóvar's "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" as the reason she started acting, and the two have worked together twice before - most notably in her solid portrayal of an AIDS-ridden, pregnant nun in "All About My Mother" - and as such it seems their respectful relationship has brought out the very best in her; under his direction she gives herself to the role completely, happy to appear unflatteringly aged and to wear a prosthetic butt throughout shooting (somewhat amusingly). Carmen Maura and Lola Dueňas - who together with Cruz share the Cannes Best Actress award - are equally fantastic as the lead's sister and mother, filling the film with an understated, poignant glow.

This is a subtle triumph that carefully traverses the barrier between tragedy and comedy, and manages to be inspiringly heartwarming without a hint of cheese: beautifully written, carefully put together and faultlessly performed.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 July 2007
"Volver" is a beautiful film. Unique in its construction and emotionally riveting in its delivery. From the very first frame it is abundantly clear that a master director with a peerless cast is at work.

All the performances are excellent and very naturalistic. Naturalistic for Southern Spain that is and Penélope Cruz is simply incredible. I had never really rated her as a great dramatic actress. The only other time she had impressed me was in a small part as a Mother giving birth on a bus in another Almodóvar Film. She proved to me she could be extraordinary. So I am left with the question why she never received the award for best actress at the Oscars. It only goes to show what a travesty that Award has become.

Pedro Almodóvar is one of the best Directors alive today and that list includes only three names. The other two are Yimou Zhang and Takashi Miike. These three Directors are international. Cutting edge! They are not trapped by their Nationality or by the Hollywood system. They make intelligent films for intelligent people unlike what Hollywood is constantly spewing out into those charmless multiplex factories.

"Volver" should have won the best picture award at the Oscars. Not best foreign film but Best Picture because, to put it simply, it is perfect. The Score, the acting, direction, production design, sound design, the opening credits, the final credits and most importantly the script. They are all perfect.

There is in Southern Spain an extraordinary wealth of Spanish "palabrotas" (swear words and rude phrases) and to really enjoy them a street knowledge of Spanish is recomended.
A Spanish Dictionary is of no use.

I feel Almodóvar has with Penélope Cruz given us one of the greatest female performances ever put to screen. What they have achieved is magical.

The actor that won the best actress award at the Oscars in 2006 and the film in which she appeared, will they be remembered?

"Volver" is already deep in the hearts of Cinema lovers and it is going to stay there.

Special features include a Commentary track with a talkative Pedro Almodóvar and reticent Penélope Cruz. Also included are interviews and Cannes footage.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2009
I admire and enjoy the films of Almodovar, and was looking forward to this film. Sadly, for some obscure reason, reviewers, film festivals and movie awards panels seem to have been carried away by their own hype, as this film is enjoyable, but very patchy and certainly not one of Almodovar's best.

It is however, good to see Penelope Cruz back in her rightful place, making quality films in her home country, where her undoubtable talent is recognised and able to shine, and where inevitably, she looks far more relaxed. She only needs to look at great actresses like Rampling, and Deneuve to understand that not being cut out for Hollywood is not necessarily a bad thing.

The story was intriguing and interesting, but the director seemed torn between making another of his ebullient homages to womanhood and a desire to make a murder mystery, which I found problematic.

Almodovar has made some truly great films, so I left this feeling mildly disappointed and very confused as to why this film is hailed as a 'return to form' when for me, he never lost his form, and why this of all his wonderful pieces of work, is the one that gained him commercial recognition on an international scale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2008
There is no doubtng the beauty of Penelope Cruz, but after a few dodgy English language films (Sahara, Vanilla Sky etc) her acting ability has seriously been called into queston. Volver totaly debunks these doubts, she provides charm, vulnerability, feminine strength and a huge amount of sex appeal to a character that can at times be totally unsympathetic. The supporting cast is just as impressive, typical of Almodovar which is no bad thing - if you look in the dictionary for the word 'quirky' it should read 'just watch an Almodovar film and you'll know what it means'.
The film is not without it's faults (what is the point of the male lead in the film crew flirting with Cruz, and this storyline disappearing to nothing), however this is definitely worth 2 hours of your life. It is rich with character, humour as well as dealing with very serious issues like the abuse of children and how to deal with terminal illness, never being depressing, but tender and caring. Go on give it a shot - it's worth the effort!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2007
Right from the opening scene of women in the cemetary it is clear that we are in a woman's world.The murder of the worthless Paco and his disposal in a deep freeze suggests that men are peripheral or hostile. What matters is the delicate web of relationships between the women. The return of the dead mother introduces elements of phantasy and comedy suggesting the we should not be too solemn about it. Penelope Cruz is a formidable screen presence but the over-riding impression is of goodteamwork. A film enjoyable rather than profound.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I loved this movie. I still rate "All about my mother" as a better film, but this was a very moving, very funny movie. Even with some of the darker subject matter, it still proved very powerful. It was good to see Carmen Maura back on the screen in an Almodovar movie. Cruz was also exceptional. Even the lesser characters such as the woman waiting to have their hair done were good, their dialogue funny.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2008
Penelope Cruz (Vanilla Sky) stars as Raimunda, a woman who is trying to focus on multiple jobs, her family and the death of her mother. She doesn't know however that her sister is being visited by the ghost of her mother.

Cruz is excellent as the lead, a very strong woman trying to hold life together. Her timing, facial expressions and general charisma infront of the camera is excellent and definitely Oscar worthy. Her strong position in this film will be a landmark for female actresses everywhere, a once in a lifetime performance and such a catalyst for females in the film industry. Best female performance in the past decade? I would say it doesn't come far off.

Set in Spain, this film captures a run down life beautifully, with dramatic issues focusing strongly on money, family, religion and survival. None more so when there are 10 second shots in between of Raimunda doing various jobs, showing strong realism and the culture.
The direction is marvellous to. Oscar winning Almodovar directs with a unique style, using a variety of shots to capture the mood and atmosphere of the dramatic situations.

The plot is very intriguing with plenty of twists and turns and emotional situations to justify the drama genre. Though I was getting slightly confused towards the end, the plot remains consistent and imaginative, focusing on strong issues and the lives and emotions of the characters.

A very emotional drama with strong direction and characters, Volver is one of the best foreign dramas in recent years.

8.5/10
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