Volver

Film
BENCHWARMING Maura, left, gets some belated love from Cruz.
BENCHWARMING Maura, left, gets some belated love from Cruz.

Time Out says

Kisses make bright, brittle snaps in Pedro Almodvar’s latest—not the sounds of air-kissing, but of habit and reassurance. Often, one kiss is not enough. People go in for seconds, thirds, reminders. This makes sense in Almodvar’s earthy universe, the primary-colored La Mancha where the director grew up and now fondly returns, but also in the context of this film’s genre; corporality is of key importance in a ghost story.

There’s little that this reliably excellent filmmaker can do to surprise us, except maybe dabble in the supernatural. And when his ghost happens to be played by feisty, gray-haired Carmen Maura, haunting two daughters, one who loved her too well (Dueas) and one not enough (Cruz), you can rest assured the thrills won’t be frightening so much as comically caustic: “You want to throw me out already?” Maura asks, cocking an eyebrow at an insolent but understandably spooked family member. Woody Allen needs ideas like this, pronto.

Even if Volver sounds too high-concept for you (the title means “coming back”), know that Almodvar is smart enough not to rest on laughs alone, extending his premise to dark, though occasionally tidy psychological territory. Alberto Iglesias, the director’s longtime composer, helps sell it with some shivery Herrmannesque strings. Ultimately it’s Cruz—now here’s a surprise—who gives the picture its dramatic weight, disposing of a deadbeat husband and never letting her teenage daughter forget who’s boss. Put Vanilla Sky and her attachment to Tom Cruise out of mind; she finally wants to play with the grown-ups. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.).—Joshua Rothkopf

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