Her real relationship is with her daughter, her sister, her mother and with her garrulous women-friends and neighbours – all chattering, laughing and, at a funeral, mumbling prayers like a swarm of pious, black-clad bees. But of course, Cruz is intensely engaged with one man: Almodóvar himself, who manages to draw out her presence like a ductile material and spread it all over his movie. Only Cruz could have carried off those hoop earrings, as big as soup-plates, and on anyone else her black top with the flowery design might have looked as if it came from Primark. On her it looks sensational, and its floral motif is carried over into the final credit sequence.
It is this context of beauty, richly sensual without being sexual, that makes the gestures of tragicomedy and passion so affecting. When Raimunda says to her miraculously returned mother: “I don’t know how I have lived all these years without you …” it is absurd, and comic, but also intensely poignant. And as often in the past, Almodóvar makes a song a central moment in the film. Raimunda has abandoned her dreary day jobs to take over an absent friend’s restaurant and cater for a visiting movie crew. Here, she impulsively decides to sing to the assembled company a showstopping lament about the return of past lives and loves – an irresistibly generous and emotional event.
No other director has as much swoon factor as Pedro Almodóvar: the texture of his movie-making is quite unique. Volver could have gone on for another hour or two: there seemed so much more to say. What a triumph for this great European director who just seems to get better and better.
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