Leo Macias writes sentimental novels with great success but hidden under a pseudonym, Amanda Gris. She is unhappy with her professional life and with her husband, a soldier working in Brussels and Bosnia that is never at home. She will try anything to change her life.
After the wholesale disappointment of the critically mauled Kika, Pedro Almodóvar desperately needed to regain lost-ground as one of Europe’s premier filmmakers. Here he takes the brave step of abandoning his high voltage sex and comedy trademarks, opting instead for a detailed and dramatic account of a successful authoress coming to terms with desertion and solitude at the onset of middle age.
As a writer of best-selling romantic fiction under an assumed name, Leo (Parades) clings desperately to a dissolving marriage to an absent NATO official, finds herself the victim of the ultimate betrayal by her closest friend, and yet is granted no consideration or compassion from her squabbling mother (Lumpreave) and sister (De Palma). Alone but for her new best friend, the bottle, she can do nothing but dispense with the falsehoods and pretences that have come to govern her life, and return to her family’s village, in the hope of rediscovering her true self.
Stripped bare of the staples we have come to expect from the Almodóvar camp — save for a perfectly realised comic double act from Lumpreave and De Palma — the film more than compensates by the power of Paredes’ performance. Toning down the multi-colour sets and garish mix’n’match costumes, Almodóvar lets rip with a story of great emotional intensity, while retaining his signature stunning visual style and a central performance quite unlike anything previously seen in his work. A potent and strikingly well-delivered combination, proving that Madrid’s finest is truly back on track.
The honing of a great talent, producing a template for numerous future classics.
Reviewed by Jane Stefanski