Love, Mystery, and Family Dysfunction in "Julieta"

Pedro Almodóvar's gorgeous (and 20th!) film is why movie theaters still exist, people—so see it while you can.

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30-Second Synopsis: Julieta is planning to move out of Madrid with her boyfriend, Lorenzo, but her plans change when she runs into Beatriz, a childhood friend of her daughter, Antía. Julieta hasn't seen her daughter in years; Antía left one day for a spiritual retreat and never returned. Jumping between the past and the present, Julieta tells the story of its title character and how she attempts to reconcile her relationship with her daughter.

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Leonor Watling as Alicia in 'Talk to Her,' Almodóvar's classic 2002 film about the unlikely circumstances surrounding two comatose women being cared for in the same facility.
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The Auteur: Spain's Pedro Almodóvar, known for such films as All About My Mother, Volver, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Talk to Her.

The Source Material: Almodóvar, who wrote and directed the film, based it on three short stories by Alice Munro ("Chance," Soon," and "Silence"), all of which appear in her 2004 book, Runaway.

The Stars: As the present-day Julieta, Emma Suárez is a perfect Almodóvar heroine: conflicted, mysterious, and beautiful (and with a touch of huskiness to her voice—Almodóvar is partial to dialogue delivered with just the right degree of breathiness). She is perfectly matched by Adriana Ugarte, who plays Julieta in her younger days.

Who Almost Starred in Julieta: Meryl Streep. Almodóvar temporarily considered making this his first English-language film but, in the end, could not resist making it in his native tongue.

Julieta brings her infant daughter out to the countryside to visit her mother and father, and a moment of reckoning ensues—because, of course it does. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
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Charming Proof of How Much Almodóvar Loves This Movie: The 13-page document of his notes on the film, handed out to everyone who attended the screening.

Almodóvar's Words on the Film: "Julieta is about the mother's struggle to survive uncertainty. It is also about fate, about guilt complexes, and about that unfathomable mystery that leads us to abandon the people we love, erasing them from our lives as if they had never meant anything, as if they had never existed."

The People Doing All That Abandoning: First, Julieta is abandoned by her daughter—then, Julieta herself abandons her longtime boyfriend when presented with the first lead on her missing daughter in 12 years.

Daniel Grao as Xoan, the handsome—and, yes, a bit complicated—fisherman who Julieta finds hard to resist. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Make Sure You Don't Blink When: A young, distraught Julieta has her hair tended to by Antía and her friend Beatriz. It's a quick, clever, transformative moment you won't want to miss.

Artists Whose Fingerprints Are Happily Evident: Master director Alfred Hitchcock, Patricia Highsmith (who's even mentioned by Lorenzo at one point), and, of course, Alice Munro.

Two strangers meet on a train, and the plot thickens! File this one between Highsmith and Hitchcock. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Why Almodóvar Remains So Vital: There simply are not enough directors in the world who try to get as much out of every frame as Almodóvar does. From the opening shot to the closing moments, he infuses his beautiful images with layers of subtext, and the viewer can't escape the feeling that this artwork is deftly placing itself in dialogue with the canon, and adding something crucial to the conversation. In short, it feels good to leave yourself in the hands of an artist as capable as Almodóvar.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Julieta is in theaters now. For more information, see sonyclassics.com/julieta.

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