January 9, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
With: Michael Barbieri, Theo Taplitz, Paulina García, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle
The latest from Ira Sachs (Love Is Strange, Keep the Lights On) is a poignant look at the close but fleeting friendship between two boys during their formative years, set against rapid gentrification in New York City.
Jake Jardine (Theo Taplitz) is a sensitive, artistic, and lonely kid who moves to Brooklyn with his Manhattanite parents, Kathy (Jennifer Ehle, Zero Dark Thirty, The King’s Speech), a psychiatrist, and Brian (Greg Kinnear, Little Miss Sunshine, As Good As it Gets), an out-of-work stage actor. There, he meets Tony Calvelli (Michael Barbieri), a magnetic, fast-talking charmer and aspiring actor whose mother, Lenor (Paulina García, Much Ado About Nothing, Gloria) has inherited the Jardines as the new landlords of her long-standing dress shop. The boys become fast friends and spend carefree summer days roving the streets on their scooters and rollerblades.
The friendship has a particular impact on Jake, who doesn’t normally connect with people as easily as Tony does. However, things quickly begin to fall apart when the boys’ parents have a falling out over the market value of Lenor’s shop.
As with Sachs’ previous film, Love is Strange, Little Men is a small, personal story with a larger political undercurrent. The writer-director subtly critiques the constant state of economic flux in a city that can swallow whole even the privileged if they hit a run of bad luck. Cinematographer Óscar Durán keenly alludes to this by observing meaningful details that include the glittering Manhattan cityscape, just out of reach on the other side of the river. Yet Sachs resists oversimplification and sentimentality in favour of nuance. Aided in no small part by superb performances from the entire cast, he portrays his characters with a rare honesty, portraying all sides with impartiality.
Little Men is a subtle, intelligent, and deeply moving look at community, family and friendship. It’s easily one of the richest and most beautiful films of the year.
Sachs is a wonderfully humane filmmaker. There are never out and out saints or demons in his films, but richly detailed, relatable lives offered for us to understand. —Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
January 16, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
LAST CAB TO DARWIN
With: Michael Caton, Ningali Lawford, Mark Coles Smith, Emma Hamilton, Jacki Weaver
Based on the successful stage play by Reg Cribb, Last Cab to Darwin tells the story of 70-year-old taxi driver Rex (Michael Caton), who is diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. Rex leaves his loved ones behind, and sets out on a 3,000-mile journey to Darwin in a bid to die on his own terms. Along the way he discovers that before you end your life you’ve got to live it, and to live it you’ve got to learn to share it.
Along the way, he picks up the smooth-talking Tilly (aboriginal actor Mark Coles Smith), who is also headed north with dreams of starting a football career. Thus does the euthanasia movie meet the buddy/road movie, a pairing actually encountered once before in Goodbye Solo, although in that case it was the passenger wanting to end it. Rex claims to have no family, but he leaves behind a grumpy neighbour (Ningali Lawford-Wolf) who is clearly the love of his late life.
Gorgeous cinematography from Steve Arnold captures the otherworldly beauty of the Outback as Rex and Tilly bisect the continent. There are sunsets and vistas stunning enough to make a suicidal man think twice; not to mention a few signs, like the literal one at the side of the highway, declaring that all roads are open . But Sims isn’t trying to preach here. Last Cab to Darwin is in fact based on the stories of two terminally ill men who sought the treatment; one of them ultimately went through with it and one did not. Both are long dead now, but the film makes the gentle suggestion that what matters more than how you choose to go is what you do in the meantime.
Great performances ... elevate the film from merely likable to poignantly satisfying. - Bruce Demara, Toronto Star
The film shows little trace of its theatrical origins, not least because it consists of one ravishing shot of the blood-orange outback after another, and Sims wrings gentle pleasures from this most unlikely of subjects. - Harry Windsor
January 23, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
France, Poland, 2016
French, Polish, Russian
With: Lou de Laâge, Agata Kulesza, Agata Buzek and Vincent Macaigne
Opening with peaceful, serene images set within a convent, director Anne Fontaine quickly establishes the illusion that will soon be broken in her new film The Innocents. A group of nuns sing in unison, before being interrupted by a harrowing scream. This cry in the dark later becomes a recurring motif, as the sobering drama recounts the traumatic experiences following a case of sexual violence in post-World War II Poland.
In December 1945, a young French Red Cross medical student, Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laâge), is sent to Poland as part of a medical mission to find, treat and repatriate French survivors of the German camps. One day, a Polish nun arrives in the hospital. In very poor French, she begs Mathilde to come to her convent. Mathilde life and beliefs change when she discovers the advanced state of pregnancy that affects several of the Sisters of the convent just outside the hospital where she works.
Inspired by the exploits of Madeleine Pauliac, a Red Cross doctor who ministered to Polish rape victims while treating French patients at a post-war Warsaw hospital, this is a harrowing insight into the cruel realities of conflict that is bound to draw comparisons with Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods And Men and Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida, especially as Agata Kulesza, Joanna Kulig and Dorota Kuduk appear in both films. But this also contains echoes of Max Färberböck's A Woman In Berlin and Wojciech Smarzowski's Rose, as it similarly explores the fate of women as Soviet forces turned liberation into a new form of oppression.
Played with restraint and individuality by a fine ensemble, this is a moving but provocative study of belief, duty, compassion and acceptance. Empire Online
January 30, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
THE EAGLE HUNTRESS
With: Aisholpan Nurgaiv, Daisy Ridley, Nurgaiv Rys, Almagul Kuksyegyen, Dalaikhan
Otto Bell’s visually stunning documentary follows Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year-old girl who becomes the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a longstanding patrilineal tradition.
It seems impossible to conceive of training wild eagles, with their seven-foot wingspans and razor-sharp talons. Yet the Kazakh people have been doing so for centuries, and the practitioners in the Bayon-Ölgii province of Mongolia are the most faithful keepers of the sacred practice. Perched precariously on the side of a mountain, with a gigantic mother eagle circling overhead, the brave girl perseveres in the face of danger and manages to capture her own baby eagle. And this is only the beginning of her adventure: under her father’s tutelage, she remains tenaciously committed to the intense training necessary to her eaglet’s development.
Aisholpan’s natural gifts for understanding and communication allow her to form a lasting bond with the bird, and with her parents’ part in the Golden Eagle Festival, competing against 70 seasoned eagle hunters. But it is only after, when she goes on a hunt, that Aisholpan will seek her true rite of passage as an eagle huntress.
Narrated by executive producer Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and featuring stunning cinematography by Simon Niblett, this riveting documentary is a rare look at one of the world’s last true wildernesses. It’s a larger-than-life story, but one that’s anchored by intimate moments. Our young heroine’s passion takes her on an incredible journey with an enriching and empowering lesson that will set hearts soaring.
Along with Aisholpan’s enduring spirit, The Eagle Huntress excels in portraying the beauty and respect the people here have for both the animals and environment. With Simon Niblett’s soaring cinematography, using a mix of eagle-mounted GoPro cameras and drone footage, there’s both an expansive and intimate sensory rush when we see Aisholpan in action. —Jordan Raup, The Film Stage
February 6, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
THINGS TO COME (L’avenir)
French, German w/ English subtitles
With: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob
Ascendant French writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve (Eden, Goodbye First Love) directs the great Isabelle Huppert in this delicate and affecting tale about a middle-aged professor, embracing the “radical” notion that women’s lives don’t end after 40.
Nathalie (Huppert) is a dedicated and demanding teacher, wife, and mother. She runs her relationships with the same rigour she brings to her study of philosophy. But when Nathalie’s husband announces that he’s leaving her for another woman, the meticulously crafted structures on which her existence is founded begin to crumble. Truly on her own for the first time, except for a less-than-grateful cat, Nathalie is daunted by this new world — until she finds an unlikely friend in a former student, the radical young communist Fabien (Roman Kolinka).
A softly meandering narrative filled with moments of lightness, loneliness, and hope, the film provides a winning marriage between Hansen-Løve’s graceful filmmaking and Huppert’s understated, but always impressive blend of vulnerability and strength. Things to Come is heartbreaking but never sentimental, wry but never ironic. It shows that, even though life may never get any easier, it nevertheless offers ceaseless opportunities for growth.
Mia Hansen-Løve and Isabelle Huppert prove [to be] a dream partnership in the director’s gorgeous, heart-cradling post-divorce drama. — Guy Lodge, Variety
February 20, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
With: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe
The second feature from acclaimed writer-director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) is an impeccably crafted study of African-American masculinity that follows its young protagonist from childhood to adulthood as he navigates the dangers of homophobia, drugs, and violence.
Though his story begins in late-1980s Miami, Jenkins shuns the familiar neon-lit hot spots in favour of a neglected neighbourhood caught in the throes of a crack epidemic. Here we meet young Chiron. Bullied at school and beaten down by a harsh home life, Chiron finds solace and comfort in the love and pride promoted by his surrogate parents. Despite his small stature and taciturn nature, Chiron is a survivor, and, as he grows, it becomes clear that his real battle isn’t even on the streets. It’s an internal one: reckoning with his complex love for his best friend.
Presented in three acts, Moonlight takes Chiron from childhood to his teens to adulthood, but defies coming-of-age conventions. Instead, Jenkins immerses us in an atmospheric subjectivity, an impressionistic vision of Chiron’s psyche in which sensuality, pain, and unhealed wounds take centre stage with staggering power. Anchored by an unforgettable performance by emerging talent Trevante Rhodes (as the older Chiron), Moonlight explores the profoundly human need to feel connected, while remaining firmly grounded in a specific understanding of African-American experience.
Barry Jenkins’ vital portrait of a South Florida youth revisits the character at three stages in his life, offering rich insights into the contemporary African-American experience. —Peter Debruge, Variety
February 27, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
20TH CENTURY WOMEN
With: Annette Benning, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup
Film Circuit favourite Mike Mills is back with the eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut, Beginners. Following that film’s exploration of Mills' adult relationship with his father, 20th Century Women looks back to the director’s life growing up with his mother in Santa Barbara, California, telling a loosely autobiographical tale of the women who helped shape him.
Despite incessant renovations on her sprawling old house, Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening, Danny Collins, The Kids Are Alright) nonetheless maintains an open-door policy that provides a home base not just for her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), but also for Jamie’s close-friend-next-door Julie (Elle Fanning, Trumbo, Ginger & Rosa), twentysomething lodger Abbie (Greta Gerwig, Maggie’s Plan, Frances Ha), and local mechanic William (Billy Crudup, Spotlight, The Stanford Prison Experiement). With no paternal presence for Jamie, Dorothea recruits Abbie as a role model for him. However, their makeshift family arrangement is complicated by Abbie’s own distracted self-searching and Jamie’s burgeoning feelings for Julie.
20th Century Women presents a subtly layered view of the turbulent final moments of 1970s America, enriched by Mills’ skilled infusion of era-appropriate music and fashion. Ultimately, however, the film’s performances shine brightest as Bening’s brilliant work is supported beautifully by Gerwig, Fanning, Crudup, and newcomer Zumann, all of whom contribute to making Mills’ sophomore effort a must-see.
The sheer likability of these lived-in characters is a powerful magnet, thanks to insightful writing and a note-perfect ensemble anchored by a never-better Annette Bening. —David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
March 6, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA - PLAYING MONDAY, MARCH 6TH AND SUNDAY, MARCH 12
With: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Good Will Hunting), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Take This Waltz), and Kyle Chandler (Carol, Bloodline) star in this critically acclaimed drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret), about a reclusive handyman whose life is upended after the sudden death of his beloved older brother. With only his third feature in 16 years, Lonergan takes us through a familiar milieu in Manchester by the Sea, but does so in wholly unfamiliar ways.
Lee Chandler (Affleck) is the resident handyman for a small apartment complex in a Boston suburb. He spends his days shoveling snow, fixing leaks, and doing his best to ignore the tenants’ small talk. He spends his evenings either alone in his basement apartment or nursing a beer at his local pub, where he’ll pick a fight with anyone who throws a glance his way. Yet buried beneath this sadness and isolation is another life.
When he receives the news that his older brother Joe (Chandler) has died of a congenital heart condition and that, to his unpleasant surprise, he’s been appointed legal guardian of Joe’s teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Lee returns to his nearby seaside hometown.
Despite the sudden loss of his father, and in stark contrast to his uncle, Patrick is full of life. A popular student, he juggles hockey, band practice, and two girlfriends. As this mismatched pair stumbles through the mundane details of estate planning and the awkward strain of adolescence, Lee is forced to confront his past, revealed seamlessly through flashbacks, and the realities of his present.
In Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan has created a world so messy that it can only be described as wonderfully human.
The persistence of grief and the hope of redemption are themes as timeless as dramaturgy itself, but rarely do they summon forth the kind of extraordinary swirl of love, anger, tenderness and brittle humor that is Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan’s beautifully textured, richly enveloping drama about how a death in the family forces a small-town New Englander to confront a past tragedy anew. —Justin Chang, Variety
March 13, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
A QUIET PASSION
With: Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Keith Carradine, Emma Bell, Duncan Duff, Rose Williams
Emily Dickinson is an ideal subject for a filmmaker as unremittingly erudite as Terence Davies (Sunset Song, The Deep Blue Sea). Now recognized as a genius who committed to paper some of the most important verses in American literature, the 19th-century poet was virtually unknown in her lifetime, with fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems published. A recluse who eventually boarded herself up in her bedroom, Dickinson explored her inner self in great detail. And while the internal lives of poets are hard to visualize, her story is as poetic as her work itself.
Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon, James White) led such a deeply introverted existence, and yet it is her encounters with her mother, father, and sister that structure the film. These moments — familiar to all who know the role that families play in Davies’ work — are sensitively rendered, but it is the seamless manner in which Dickinson’s luminous poetry is integrated that is the central joy of A Quiet Passion.
Stunning in its sumptuous photography, the film’s beauty is also evident in the respect and love that it brings to its subject. A magician when it comes to understanding the inner workings of the most sensitive of minds, Davies has created an extraordinarily moving account of Emily Dickinson’s particular genius.
Given its themes and the tragic circumstances of Dickinson’s life, Passion is a refreshingly humorous work. Its firecracker dialogue is invigorating; the assured, measured compositions are equally compelling. And in its sensitivity to intersecting conflicts related to womanhood and class, it is quietly masterful. —Michael Pattison, Indiewire
March 20, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
I, DANIEL BLAKE
UNITED KINGDOM/FRANCE/BELGIUM, 2016
With: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires
For nearly 50 prolific years, British master Ken Loach (Jimmy’s Hall, The Angels’ Share) has addressed socio-economic issues in Britain and beyond through the working-class heroes who populate his films. His relatable characters, with all their naturalism and sharp edges, leap off the screen as if real people in real, and usually dire, situations. Most recently, Loach won his second Cannes Palme d’Or with I, Daniel Blake, a timely drama about an ailing handyman’s battle to survive after being denied his government health benefits.
Loach’s latest feature is indeed one of his finest explorations of social realism. The eponymous Daniel (Dave Johns, Inspector George Gently, Dogtown) is an affable 59-year-old carpenter in Newcastle, England, fighting to collect his Employment and Support Allowance after falling ill. (Government illogic stipulates that his benefits will be taken away unless he looks for work, yet doctor’s orders prevent him from working.) Waiting to sign on at the local Job Centre, Daniel befriends Katie (Hayley Squires, A Royal Night Out, Southcliffe), a young single mother who is also being shoved around by the vagaries of the system, having just been relocated with her two kids from a London homeless shelter to an affordable council flat up north. A mutually beneficial alliance, and makeshift extended family, is formed.
Loach and his frequent collaborator, screenwriter Paul Laverty (Jimmy’s Hall, The Angels’ Share), spin a tale that will leave no one unmoved. Working with some of most powerful set pieces he has ever filmed, the director effortlessly builds empathy for two downtrodden people — honest would-be workers navigating a cruel tangle of red tape while trying to steal a happy moment or two.
...I, Daniel Blake is at its best when it’s chronicling the impromptu, completely platonic friendship that develops between two people with nothing in common except decency... —Mike D’Angelo, A.V. Club
March 27, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
English, Bengali, Hindi
With: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose, Sunny Pawar
Lion is a 2016 Australian-American-British drama film directed by Garth Davis and written by Luke Davies, based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly.
Five-year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets lost on a train, which takes him thousands of miles across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple (David Wenham, Nicole Kidman). Twenty five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.
Comparisons no doubt will be made with the film that launched Patel's career, Slumdog Millionaire, and the early sections of this sprawling drama do in fact recall the Dickensian depiction of life for poor children in India in Danny Boyle's 2009 Oscar winner. But that movie was an exhilarating, high-energy fairy tale, while Lion is something quite different — a sober and yet profoundly stirring contemplation of family, roots, identity and home, which engrosses throughout the course of its two-hour running time.
Patel does arguably his most nuanced and heartfelt screen work to date as Saroo wrestles with conflicting loyalties — to Sue, saddened by his sudden withdrawal and by her troubles with Mantosh; to Lucy, keen to support him but increasingly shut out; and to his birth mother and brother, memories of them filling his head after being archived away in remote recesses for years.
One could quibble about the protracted stop-start depiction of his search process, which seems designed merely to delay an outcome made obvious by the film's very existence. But there's no denying the swelling emotions of the final act, or remaining dry-eyed during the characters' joyous reunion.
See it and I promise your own heart will skip a beat with happiness and joy. Rex Reed, New York Observer
April 3, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
LA LA LAND - CANCELLED
April 10, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
JULIETA - CANCELLED
April 17, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
Turkish with English subtitles
Kedi is not a documentary about house cats or the strays you occasionally see in your back yard. Kedi is a film about the hundreds of thousands of cats who have roamed the metropolis of Istanbul freely for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people's lives, impacting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can.
Cats and their kittens bring joy and purpose to those they choose, giving people an opportunity to reflect on life and their place in it. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to ourselves. "Cats - tabbies, calicos, angoras, Norwegian forest cats; ginger cats, grey cats, black cats, white cats, black and white cats - all kinds of cats, roam the city, free, without a human master. Some fend for themselves, scavenging from dumpsters, living in abandoned buildings, others are cared for by communities of people, pampered with the best cat food and given shelter for the cold months.
Cats have been a part of the city for thousands of years, and so, everyone who grows up in Istanbul or lives in Istanbul has a story about a cat. Stories that are memorable; sometimes scary, sometimes spiritual, but always very personal. Street cats are such a big part of the culture that when US president Barack Obama visited Istanbul, part of his tour included a stop at the Hagia Sophia to visit its famous cat, Gli. Cats are as integral to the identity of Istanbul as its monuments, the Bosporus, tea, raki and fish restaurants." Ceyda Torun
A cat's-eye view of the world that showcases both the warm-hearted people of this ancient Turkish city and the seamless integration of its felines into everyday life. - Kathryn Laskaris, Toronto Star
In Istanbul, cats don't meow. They miyav. The cat sounds the same; it's humans who hear and see things differently, as our species seems to do when we're halfway around the world. - Amy Nicholson, MTV
April 24, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING
With: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Dockery
The Sense of an Ending is based on the 2011 Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Julian Barnes and directed by Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox). Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent), divorced and retired, leads a reclusive and relatively quiet life. One day, he learns that the mother of his university girlfriend, Veronica (Charlotte Rampling), left in her will a diary kept by his best friend who dated Veronica after she and Tony parted ways.
Tony’s quest to recover the diary, now in Veronica’s possession, forces him to revisit his flawed recollections of his friends and of his younger self. As he digs deeper into his past, it all starts to come back; the first love, the broken heart, the deceit, the regrets, the guilt... Can Tony bear to face the truth and take responsibility for the devastating consequences of actions he took so long ago?
Julian Barnes' short, penetrating novel about how we self-protectively edit our memories receives an intelligent, low-key, necessarily diluted big-screen treatment in The Sense of an Ending. - Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
May 1, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
LA LA LAND
With: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt
Set in modern day Los Angeles, this modern take on the Hollywood musical comes from Damien Chazelle, the Academy Award-nominated writer and director of Whiplash. LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, who serves lattes to movie stars as a barista at a local coffee shop, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who plays dingy bars in order to scrape by. Both characters are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts in a film about everyday life that explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams. The two meet and fall in love, but, as success mounts, the dreams they worked so hard to maintain threaten to tear them apart.
All of Chazelle's key collaborators were clearly in total sync with the project's aims. Composer Justin Hurwitz, who worked on both the director's previous films, has delivered an LP's worth of buoyant, charming tunes, mostly in a jazzy vein, with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul supplying the lyrics. Production designer David Wasco and costume designer Mary Zophres adroitly supplied touches of the old and new in an elegant way, while choreographer Mandy Moore similarly danced a stylistic tightrope that greatly helped Chazelle achieve his aim of delivering a welcome gift of vintage goods in a dazzling new package.
La La Land does nothing less than jolt the movie musical to life for the 21st century. You leave exhilarated by Damien Chazelle’s nonstop inventiveness, dazzled by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and thrilled how they made movies magic again. Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
May 8, 2017 - 7:30pm at Tilley Hall, UNB Campus
Spanish w/English subtitles
With: Dario Grandinetti, Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Adriana Ugarte, Michelle Jenner, Emma Suárez, Rossy de Palma
Spanish maestro Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her, All about My Mother, Volver) is renowned for his ability to move effortlessly from high drama to high farce, exploring the contradictions of human needs and desire through a range of styles and tones. As one of the cinema’s greatest makers of films about women, it is only fitting that for his latest and 20th feature he has chosen to adapt the work of Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro. Mining three stories from Munro’s exquisite collection Runaway and relocating them to Spain, Almodóvar creates a marvelously textured tale that examines the strained relationship between a mother and daughter.
When we first meet Julieta (Emma Suárez), she is a 55-year-old teacher about to move to Lisbon with her husband, Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti, Wild Tales, Talk to Her), until an unexpected encounter brings an end to those plans and, for reasons unbeknownst to Lorenzo, Julieta insists she must remain in Madrid. Almodóvar then plunges us into the past, where Julieta (now played by Adriana Ugarte) is an effervescent and beautiful young woman who, on a train one late winter night, meets and is enchanted by a handsome young man, Xoan (Daniel Grao). In short order, Julieta becomes pregnant, moves to Xoan’s idyllic fishing village in Galicia, marries him and begins to raise their daughter, Anitá. In the full glow of her happiness, it seems that nothing could possibly go wrong.
And so the film moves forward and backward through time as it chronicles Julieta’s relationship and eventual rupture with her beloved daughter (played alternately by Priscilla Delgado and Blanca Pares), while in the present Lorenzo follows her around Madrid, intent on unraveling the mystery behind her sudden decision. Evoking such earlier Almodóvar films as High Heels and All about My Mother, Julieta reflects on the magic of chance encounters and the fragility of relationships in the face of long-buried secrets.
A slick, stylish melodrama with an involving story and a cracking cast. Star Adriana Ugarte is a real find. —Anna Smith, Empire