Reel Review: Volver - Alfredo Mayor

Review by Alfredo Mayor

Pedro Almodóvar, director of Volver

In his previous films, Pedro Almodóvar has mostly centred his stories on queer sexualities -- about transsexual people, homosexuality, lesbianism, fetishism, prostitutes, and others. At the time of their release, and in a significant way, they shocked Spanish society which was coming out of a period of repression. More recently, however, Almodovar has moved towards a different field where the story is not centred on queer protagonists. Sexuality is incidental to the story which talks about human emotions, desires and hopes. This is so in the case of Volver. 

In Volver, Almodóvar tries to capture the essence of the rural life in the south of Spain where he was born. Also, and as in most of his previous films, the protagonist is a group of women in an extreme situation; here it is that of living with presence of the dead. 

The film is about three generations of women and how their lives are intertwined. The film stars Penelope Cruz, Yohana Cobo, Lola Dueñas, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, and Blanca Portillo, amongst others.The women live with the dead remaining part of their lives, without it taking away from the richness and joy of living, and so, eventually, the dead remain alive. Raimunda lives in Madrid with her daughter Paula and her husband who is always drunk. Her sister works secretly as a hairstylist for women. The two sisters lost their parents in a fire years ago in their village. Their maternal aunt still lives in the village and talks about her sister as though she is still alive. Then the aunt dies and the situation changes dramatically with the past making a return (volver) in a mysterious way. 

Although Volver does not explicitly talk about sexuality, it is sex that is the motor of all the events that shape the story. 

Surrealistically comical in parts, it would be a mistake to describe Volver as a comedy. The story moves around dark instincts in which sexual desire drives murder and loneliness. It is, however, the generosity of these women, their happiness and their strength, which finally survive.

Volver has striking imagery, colours, drama, and, emotions, and, music by Alberto Iglesias. There is something about Almodóvar's films that draws a viewer in, so much that you can virtually smell, taste and feel some of what happens on screen. This film is no exception. A delight in every frame, every sound, and every character!

Alfredo Mayor was born in Spain in 1972. Two main passions have guided his life: first, traveling and learning from different cultures. Second, science. Combining both passions, he decided to focus his professional career on malaria, which allowed him to spend long periods of time in South America, Africa and India. He is leading collaborative research work between India and Spain on vaccine candidates against malaria. He loves India.