Like any other Pedro Almodovar film from the past, ‘Volver’ is a familiar story that follows an unfamiliar path. If viewed in isolation, the different subplots cover a range of themes; there is a murder mystery and a parallel ghost story, but the screenplay shrewdly conceals within the layers of dialogue, a stab at a social problem.
To talk about the film is to reduce its joy of watching to a series of absurd situations, but I will try. Penelope Cruz plays the vibrant Raimunda, whose daughter Paula, kills her father (and Raimunda’s husband) when he tries to rape her. In a bid to dispose of the body, she fails to turn up for her aunt’s funeral who also dies on the same day, making her sister suspicious of her motives. Things get more comical and complicated when Raimunda’s sister starts seeing their dead mother walking around their aunt’s house. Is the old home haunted? Is the legend about the dead coming back to take care of unfinished business true? I will not tell, but the film uses these situations in wildly imaginative ways to weave a campy, melodramatic tale that charms with its wit and humour.
As has always been the case, Almodovar directs from his own script, and like all his previous work, the characters have a celebratory spirit, signaling the acceptance of life’s joys and tragedies. As a writer, he has way of fusing together our love for cinema with the zest for living. In ‘Volver’ this happens when the down on her luck Raimunda finds hope by serving food to a film crew shooting nearby in an abandoned restaurant that has been placed in her care, while the owner is away tending other matters. ‘Volver’ also has another familiar running theme, that of the delicate relationships we share with our family and the more the two sisters hide their individual secrets from each other, the closer the family seems to become. In the end, as with everything Almodovar chisels, matters are sorted out, and we come to realize that despite everything else that might happen, possessing optimism in the face of great adversity never goes unrewarded. A very likeable film.
- by Faizan Rashid [Rated 4 out of 5]