Apparently Penélope Cruz has one of those faces with a one-to-one relationship to my emotions. Penélope Cruz: [tears fill her eyes] / Me, sobbing: “She’s so beautiful and strong!” And tears fill her eyes a LOT in Volver (‘The Return’), the second Pedro Almodóvar film I’ve seen in a month, and hey I love him. The closest comparison I have for Volver is actually, hear me out, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, as it’s the only other thing I can think of where a director rendered a really dark, traumatic plot into such a likable, charming movie. But Volver has an even greater mix of tones going on, fluidly jumbling funny, wild melodrama with a sincere, lovely portrayal of an unconventional family and their intimacy with death. It’s morbid and colorful and somehow makes single-handedly running a restaurant look like a desirable occupation. This movie’s kinda magic.
It is also, and I cannot stress this enough, entirely about women. I think the combined total male speaking time runs less than five minutes. This movie is two hours long. Pedro mi cariño. ❤ Oh by the way I’ve started trying to learn Spanish! By using an app and well, watching a lot of Almodóvar movies. People have suggested telenovas, but so far with Almodóvar I’ve already watched Javier Cámara rob a church in drag and four women haul a deep freezer with a body in it into the back of a van, so I’m doing pretty bueno.
Anyway, what I think might make a good companion to Volver is Joan Didion’s essay on the Santa Ana wind in Southern California. There is a supernatural wind here too, a strong east wind that blows through the village where Raimunda and her sister Sole grew up, which Raimunda (Cruz) says makes everyone there go mad. I sure do love stories with a madness-inducing wind! And that opening scene of the wind whipping the brightly colored skirts of all the women cleaning gravestones in a sun-scoured cemetery? Beautiful beautiful beautiful.