Broken Embraces [los Abrazos Rotos] Movie Review

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Perhaps not as dazzling as Almodovar's masterpieces, this film is still an involving and sleekly well-made melodrama touching on his usual themes of romance, death and parentage. It also has some terrific noir touches as it dips into ambition and revenge.

Mateo (Homar) is a filmmaker who, after going blind, has locked himself in his Madrid flat writing scripts with Diego (Novas), son of his loyal agent (Portillo). Then he hears of the death of wealthy financier Ernesto (Gomez), who 14 years earlier had bankrolled a film project starring his trophy mistress Lena (Cruz), who was desperate to get out of the relationship. Back then, as Lena and Mateo started spending rather too much time together, Ernesto sent his teen son (Ochandiano) to follow them, ostensibly to film a making-of doc.

Like Talk to Her or Bad Education, the movie has a simmering dramatic tone rather than the broad, expressive emotion of other Almodovar films. But the growing mystery is thoroughly involving, as the fragmented structure brings out telling details and allows the characters to emerge vividly. The cast is excellent, with Homar holding the film together through understatement, and Cruz delivering another delightfully engaging turn as a complex woman caught in tricky circumstances.

And it looks fantastic. Rodrigo Prieto's sharp cinematography cleverly echoes the movie-making setting through mirrors, frames and video screens while echoing film classics with wit and emotion. The sound mix is just as inventive, playfully using the art of cinema to make effective points about perspective.

And Almodovar also plays with the movies' voyeuristic allure, as the characters all seem to be keeping an eye on each other. And what they see might not be the truth.

Almodovar continues to twist things right up to the end, dropping in big and small revelations that redefine relationships and situations. The final act may feel like it peters out without an emotional kick, but there's a beautiful sense of what might have been if things hadn't taken such a fateful turn 14 years earlier. This is a bold, perhaps too subtle conclusion to such an elegantly made movie, but once it gets into your head, you can't stop thinking about it.

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Broken Embraces [los Abrazos Rotos] Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: 15, 2009

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