A fine and sturdy adaptation, well-made, well-mannered, and, well, moving, with two equally exceptional leads as one lady grappling with layers of guilt and loss. (Can one grapple with a layer? Never mind.) Yet it's missing something. Two things, actually: the animating essences of its equally exceptional co-authors, Munro and Almodovar, which neither appear nor combust.
After his very slight previous film Almodovar returns to the world of melodrama with this very fine adaptation of Canadian Alice Munro's short stories. Julieta, played by both Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte masterfully, satisfies on near every level both technically and creatively. Relocating Munro's ideas to Spain allows Almodovar to make the scenario is own and adds to his impressive oeuvre.
After The Skin I Live In and I'm So Excited, I had hoped that Pedro would continue seeking out the energy/danger of his days as an enfant terrible. In a twist, Julieta is an old man's film and Pedro's least outlandish melodrama to date. But you haven't seen it all before—the moment where one actress becomes another is one of the most haunting shots he ever did. If this ends up as his testament film, it's a good one.
Sure, it's ripe for playing Almodóvar bingo, but by God if that's not akin to slipping on a toasty cinematic onesie. It's not rocket science: a passionate filmmaker writes a strong script, gathers together fine actors, artists and technicians, and lovingly creates a fine addition to his "cinema of women", capped by a deliciously rich Alberto Iglesias score - it's hard not to get caught up in such movie bliss.
It simply didn't work for me. Too artificial to say the least. I'm well aware that Pedro Almodovar isn't a fan of the Neo-Realist movement but I think that here, every character lacks blood. They are well written but they don't live. Already forgotten.
If not Almodovar's best, this film at least has the decency of putting together a powerful female cast. I like how the narrative translates to imagery as a conductor - the train, the sea, the country, the city. At the end, although its overly dramatic statement (it's soap opera realness sometimes), Julieta brings the director back from the dead after his comedy murder on Shame Airlines. It's feminine and soulful.
Everytime I remember that Adriana Ugarte didn't know Almodóvar was the director of Julieta when she auditioned for the part, I think of how lucky we are that she liked that secrecy and went with it until the end, because if she hadn't, we wouldn't know this beautiful talent & face today and oh man, what we would be missing. (cntd in comment)
A really nice Almodóvarian film decorated with the usual tropes of motif and tone. Should be a delightful treat for Almodóvar hardcore fans, but it doesn't offer the resonant depth of his previous films.