I don’t imagine there could be anything more grief-inducing or soul-destroying for a parent than having the child that they’ve painstakingly brought into, and brought up in the world, completely wash their hands of them, potentially never to make contact again.
This is the distressing scenario that Pedro Almodovar tackles in his latest, thought-provoking piece, Julieta.
Julieta (played by both Adriana Ugarte (younger Julieta) and Emma Suarez (older Julieta)), is a beautiful, middle-aged woman on the verge of relocating to Portugal with her boyfriend. It’s all been agreed, yet, without explanation, at the eleventh hour, Julieta develops cold feet, turning her back on both boyfriend and relocation plans.
Instead, without a word, she heads to a part of town that she’s familiar with and rents an apartment for herself in a block in which she once lived, many years before.
It’s unclear at this stage exactly what her motives were to have done such a thing, but she’s clearly running from something.
Director Almodovar, uses the narrative device of a long letter that Julieta then pens to her estranged daughter, Antía (played by both Priscilla Delgado (child Antía) and Blanca Parés (18 year old Antía)), to gradually reveal a tale of great sorrow and regret; how a chance encounter with a rugged fisherman on a train, named Xoan (Daniel Grao), led to an impulsive and passionate affair, and how the daughter that they would subsequently bring into the world, would come to shape and influence their respective lives, to such a life-shattering extent.
There’s an awful lot of detailed storyline covered in Julieta, chronicling the life of the film’s lead from an intelligent, courageous and impetuous young lady, to the world-weary ‘broken’ woman that resignedly composes her mournful plea to her daughter. Almodovar’s courageous direction, unafraid as he is to skip quickly and purposely over copious amounts of weighty subject matter, is thus particularly impressive; never over-indulging, yet successfully retaining both tremendous impact and integrity throughout.
And there’s a lovely sense of fate and symmetry about Julieta, exploring elements of chance and opportunity, hope and forgiveness, and the coming to terms – that we all must do – with our own faults and frailties.
Enveloped by Alberto Iglesias’s luscious score that embraces both jazz and classical sensibilities in a manner not unreminiscent of Film-Noir, Julieta is a very beautiful, poignant bit of film-making.
No less than we’d expect from such a master of his craft.