Strange Way of Life
Photograph: El Deseo
  • Film
  • Recommended


Strange Way of Life

4 out of 5 stars

Pedro Almodóvar’s Western short is a tender treat, perfectly pitched by Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke

Ian Freer

Time Out says

Strange Way Of Life is a much more muted, melancholy flick than the notion of a Pedro Almodóvar western suggests (if you were hoping for the camp of Lust In The Dust, forget it). The Spanish filmmaker’s second English language flick (after Tilda Swinton short The Human Voice), and his first period picture, is just 31 minutes long, but mines deeper reserves of feeling than films four times its length.

Turning a queer eye on the historically straight-shooting guy, Almodóvar’s film centres on the reunion of old friends Silva (Pedro Pascal, effortlessly charismatic) and Jake (Ethan Hawke, flawlessly taciturn and grizzled). Silva rides into – Symbolic Name Alert – Bitter Creek, the town Jake now presides over as Sheriff. The pair catch up over stew and wine and end up in bed together, Almodóvar eschewing explicit sex for suggestive detail (the men pick out clean white underwear together the following morning). In flashback we learn Silva and Jake’s backstory – a vino-fuelled tryst that blossomed into a two-month affair – and here the film does get physical. But it transpires Silva has a secret agenda beyond rekindling previous passions.  

It mines deeper reserves of feeling than films four times its length

The short is a collab with fashion house Saint Lauren – Pascal sports a mint green jacket ripped straight off James Stewart’s back in Bend Of The River – but never feels like a lame-o promotional effort. Shot in the Spanish town of Almeria where Sergio Leone made his Dollars trilogy, Almodóvar has taken a genre – there are lone riders against big landscapes, a tense three-way Mexican standoff – and bent it to his own obsessions: chiefly, Strange Way Of Life is about male desire and the different ways men process and deal with it. 

The filmmaking, as you’d expect, is impeccable, Almodóvar’s regular composer Alberto Iglesias providing menace and melodrama in equal measure, only giving into Morricone-esque operatic stylings over the end credits. The only complaint is that it all ends too abruptly, you could spend so much more time with these compelling cowpokes. But, if you want to know what happens next, stay in your seat as the maestro explains all in an excellent in-depth interview with Time Out contributor Anna Bogutskaya. It will make you appreciate this beautifully rendered miniature even further.

In UK cinemas for one night only on Sep 25, featuring exclusive Q&A with Pedro Almodóvar. In New York/LA theaters Oct 4 and US-wide Oct 6.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Pedro Almodóvar
  • Screenwriter:Pedro Almodóvar
  • Cast:
    • Ethan Hawke
    • Pedro Pascal
    • Manu Ríos
You may also like
You may also like