Chance encounters. Estranged children. Flashbacks that reveal past trauma. If Julieta sounds like melodrama, that’s because it’s almost exactly that. Almost.
There are scenes in Julieta in which people discussing a disaster on the phone see the conclusion of said disaster broadcast on the news programme they’re simultaneously watching – as soon as they stop speaking. Bereaved women identify mangled bodies while wearing black headscarves. Ominous letters are received, photographs of loved ones are symbolically torn up, and characters suffer picturesque TV-soap terminal illnesses. Confessions of past wrongs are made.
This heightened movie-reality will be familiar to anyone who appreciates Almodóvar’s singular cinematic universe. What’s different about Julieta is that it’s an adaptation of three short stories from Runaway, a collection by Canadian author Alice Munro.
Literary adaptations are a tricky business. For every director/author pairing that is an unexpected success (like Mary Harron’s version of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho) there’s a seemingly apt pairing that misfires in practice (like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland). Sassy Spaniard Almodóvar and Cool Canadian Munro aren’t a perfect fit, but the results are occasionally inspired.
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With almost every shot elegantly composed and popping with tropical colour, Julieta reminds you of what a sexy director Almodóvar is. Even in a film about loss, waiting, and self-denial, he makes the most of the little consummations only alluded to in Munro’s book. Sometimes it feels like the director is straining against the restrained nature of his material.
But although it’s the delicious high-camp of Almodóvar’s style that makes a melodrama of Munro’s quiet stories, it also brings out these stories' human psychology, and the truth of how guilt and melancholy can be passed from mother to daughter despite the best intentions. Previous adaptations of Munro’s work have erred on the side of low-key and miserabilist. Who knew that what her fiction really needed was the energy of Mediterranean kitsch?
Not everyone will appreciate Julieta, but the sheer quality of Munro’s storytelling is discernible under the director’s oddly garish garb. Like an incorrigibly flamboyant tailor dressing his aunt for a funeral, Almodóvar may be a little off with the colours, but he knows how to make the cut flatter.
|What||Julieta film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
26 Aug 16 – 26 Jul 19, Times Vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|