28 October 2010

Review: "Hable con ella"

Pedro Almodóvar followed his Academy Award-winning film Todo sobre mi madre with 2002's brilliant Hable con ella (Talk to Her). It is without a doubt his most mature and refined film. The screenplay, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, effortlessly incorporates the themes of love and anguish with his most compelling story to date. Anyone familiar with Almodóvar's work will recognize his trademark use of colour and contrast, but what sets Hable con ella apart from his earlier work is a greater emphasis on character. The beautiful score by Alberto Iglesias gave me chills watching the film, but it was the performances by the four principal actors that drew me into this emotional film. Javier Cámara and Darió Grandinetti are brought together by coincidence and their mutual heartache is central to the film. Leonor Watling and Rosario Flores play their respective lovers with a quiet brilliance that makes the film's ever-present emotional current even stronger. Volver was the first Almodóvar film that I ever saw and I was hooked by the film's vibrant colours and complex themes. Todo sobre mi madre is unfortunately the earliest film that I have seen, but Hable con ella is one of the most captivating and profoundly emotional films that I have seen in a long time. It is difficult to highlight one outstanding element of Hable con ella because it succeeds so wonderfully as a work of art.

The film opens with Benigno (Cámara) and Marco (Grandinetti) sitting beside each other at a dance concert. The two men are strangers and unaware that their paths will soon cross and their lives will be forever changed. Bengino works at a private clinic and is the personal nurse to a patient named Alicia (Watling). Alicia is in a coma and Benigno has been obsessed with her since first seeing her at a dance studio outside his apartment window. Marco ends up at the clinic because his girlfriend Lydia (Flores) was in a terrible accident and is also in a coma. Lydia was a matador who became comatose after being gored by a bull. The film unfolds with flashbacks as we see how Benigno and Marco came to become involved with Alicia and Lydia, respectively. Their friendship becomes more important when each man learns a disturbing truth about their relationships. Marco discovers that Lydia had returned to her former lover prior to her accident and Benigno (and the clinic) discover that Alicia has become pregnant while in her coma.

Hable con ella is the most mature Almod
óvar film that I have seen as well as the most dramatic. It does not feature the comedic undertones that were present in Todo sobre mi madre, Volver (2006) or Los abrazos rotos (2009). I felt genuinely moved and emotionally drained after seeing the film. Javier Cámara and Darió Grandinetti do shine in the film's prominent roles, but it was Rosario Flores' passionate performance that drew me into the film. Almodóvar has given his actors a tremendous screenplay with a incredibly compelling story. In a film with two major characters in comas the dialogue becomes that much more important. Pedro Almodóvar beautifully uses the silence and the one-sided conversations so that the scenes feel natural instead of awkward. Hable con ella is well paced and beautifully imagined film. It may be more dramatic and mature than Almodóvar's previous films but it still has his trademark style with beautiful colours and passionate performances.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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