Review: Volver

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(Penelope Cruz stars as Raimunda, a woman with a terrible secret, in "Volver.")

There's a lot of praise for Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver, or for those who aren't Spanish-inclined, the "Return". Appropriate title since Almodóvar manages to weave the interconnecting lives of his characters and unites them back to a full circle.

As with most of his other films, his women have the center stage, commanding our emotions and empathy. Raimunda (Cruz) is a woman who does her best coping with the tragedies of life with some help. Her daughter, Sole (Dueñas) is a distant teenager who can't seem to find her place as a loving daughter, and who is also a return point for the film's orgasm.

There are subtle hints of sexuality within the film without its actual manifestion. Raimunda’s sister Paula (Cobo) plays the uneasy woman but loving sister and aunt, who ends up hiding their mother, Irene (Maura)---as a fake Russian that is helping out as Paula's hair salon assistant. The circumstances of the plot is, more or less, a décor for the humor and performances.

Although the movie sometimes feels melodramatic the overall tone is classic Almodóvar. The film’s ambience is what you would expect from the acclaimed director. Volver is a symphony of lives where you don't exactly know where the stories are heading until the end. Is it a ghost, murder, or mystery story? Of course the answer is yes and more.

The sadness, joy, anger, love, and forgiveness propels it to definite heights -- and Almodóvar is at his best in this aesthetic style of melodrama.

The circumstances of the characters’ lives are somewhat extraordinary but the sensibilities they present don’t leave our reality.

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