Words by Leona McDaid
August 29th, 2016
Julieta, the latest offering from Pedro Almodóvar, masterfully taps into universal emotions and fears to create a powerful story that will haunt you. An emotional juggernaut that portrays grief, guilt, love and hate with resonating impact for not only the characters but the viewers who are brought on voyeuristic view on complex relationships and their journey that can neither be forgiven or forgotten.
Filmed with noir effect, the opening scene begins with a dramatic close-up of red fabric, which we soon realise is a dress. We are introduced to Julieta, a forty something woman played by Emma Suárez, she is packing for a move to Portugal with her love Lorenzo. However, a chance encounter with a childhood friend of her daughter, Antia, later that day throws her plans into disarray and the mystery and heart of this drama begins to unfold. She abandons her planned move, stays in Madrid, revisits her old apartment and unfolds her story.
Many years ago, after suffering from the grief and loss of her father Xoan, an eighteen year old Antía abandons her mother Julieta without explanation. To tell the story, Almodóvar goes back to the beginning, to a twenty-five year old Julieta living in the ’80s played by Adriana Ugarte. We are brought back to a turning point in her life, a pivotal train scene where she meets two strangers. The consequences of this journey will later shape her own journey to adulthood. The scene introduces death and its repercussions, which soon becomes a recurring theme in her story.
A teacher in classic literature, the cycle of death and the response to it by the characters in Julieta almost play out like a modern day tragedy and at times Julieta can make for uncomfortable viewing.
The complexity of the female relationships and the destruction they can cause is born out like an open wound. It is the relationships between the female characters that are the most cutting and at times, the most cruel. The daughter, infected by guilt by the loss of her father sets out to tear apart other close bonds with her mother and her friend Bea. Also symbolic of how cruel female relationships can be, is the presence of a matriarch in the form of a house cleaner in the life of a young Julieta, who proves instrumental in the creation of heartache and destruction.
In an age where “ghosting” has become a thing, Julieta is also a showcase for abandonment. The innate fear it creates shapes the leading characters while showing us that the relationships we most cherish can leave us at our most vulnerable.
Julieta is not only abandoned by her daughter Antía at eighteen years of age, she witnesses it in her closest of relationships, from her first ever encounter with Xoan (who at the time is still married to his wife in a coma) and then her father. The men in Julieta are support acts to the female protagonists. Self interested, fickle, weak, first in the form of her father and then her love of thirteen years Xoan. The only positive portrayal of a man is the supportive Lorenzo who seems to break the cycle.
Julieta is a film that gets under your skin and is both disturbing and captivating in equal measure. The noir appearance, reinforced by the ominous soundtrack by Alberto Iglesias adds to this. It is an emotive story; a story that shows how relationships can be destroyed by death and guilt. And, how a reaction to death can turn a tragedy into a living hell. As the closing credits roll up the audience is left in a transfixed silence of what has just transpired, a moving story that is told in Almodovar’s cinematic genius merging turbulent emotions with trade mark style.
Release date: 26 August
Running time: 99 mins
Watch the trailer here
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