Since we have to wait till at least spring of 2009 to see Pedro Almodóvar’s next movie, it might be a good time to take a fresh look at his 2006 film, Volver. I don’t think you’ll be sorry if you do. Volver finds the filmmaker in a less outrageous frame of mind than usual. Now, that’s a relative call, since less outrageous in Almodóvar’s case doesn’t preclude murders, incest, adultery, prostitutes, trash TV, a supposed ghost, time-out for a musical turn by Penélope Cruz and a look at Almodóvar’s birth region, La Mancha, which the movie assures us has an abnormally high rate of insanity. But this is pretty tame stuff by Almodóvarian standards, which is to say there aren’t any heroin-addicted nuns, 12-year-old boy hustlers, 14-year-old drug dealers, flamboyant drag queens (with or without murderous schemes), gay Islamic terrorists, sexually confused men in love with comatose hospital patients, would-be matadors who faint at the sight of blood etc. See? Volver is almost normal. You could take the whole family to see it—depending on the family.
Volver is also a little bit of cinematic magic of the kind that only Almodóvar provides. It’s a deceptively simple tale of a supposedly dead mother (the wonderful Carmen Maura) who comes back from the beyond when circumstances permit and she feels her daughters—Penélope Cruz and Lola Dueñas—need her. Her return indeed coincides with an especially turbulent period in their lives, but whether her presence is necessarily a help is another matter. That presence, though, does make for richer lives—and the exorcism of secrets and wrongs long buried, as the characters unburden themselves or expiate their “sins.”