Pedro Almódovar’s 20th feature film Julieta is an adaptation of three Alice Munro stories. At first glance, the Spanish auteur and the Canadian writer wouldn’t appear to have anything in common. But they both share a dedication (perhaps obsession) to detailing the secret lives of women. Curiously enough, they are also united by an attraction to the more lurid, preposterous, and occasionally downright cruel twists of fate. Read on…
A profile of Almódovar, published in The New Yorker begins with his earliest introduction to story, within the bosom of his family. This entrée to the feminine demands of dramatic narrative is described thusly: “He grew up mostly in the company of women. He fell in love with them singly and as a communal force. They were Spain’s secret power…While the men were off working, the women nurtured the children and dealt with births, relationships, and deaths—what Almodóvar calls los problemas reales.”
Munro is similarly concerned with such problems. The stories collected in Munro’s book Runaway, which form the basis of Julieta, begin with a woman mourning the loss of her estranged daughter. After a chance meeting with her daughter’s friend Beatriz (Michelle Jenner), Julia (initially played by Emma Suarez) spirals backwards in time to a random encounter on a train with a sexy fisherman. From there, lines and twists of narrative converge and conflate.
Although Almódovar’s cinematic adaptation is set in Madrid, a world away from the bleakness of Canadian landscape, described in Munro’s stories as “Rocks, trees, water, snow” Julieta shares the same random intersections of fate. The vagaries of men, the suffering of women and the betrayal of love all come together in a concoction of dramatic elements. It bears some resemblance to the filmmaker’s early influences, namely stories about ”People who threw themselves down the well or hanged themselves from the rafters…It was the origin of life and, at the same time, of fiction and fabulation.’”
Pam Grady: Rossy DePalma as a Mrs. Danvers-like housekeeper adds a touch of the sinister to Julieta, Pedro Almódovar’s evocative adaptation of three Alice Munro stories, a Hitchockian melodrama about a mother (Emma Suarez) who plunges into a journey back into her past when she hears news of her long missing daughter.
Thelma Adams: Julieta! Who knows the heart of women better than Director Pedro Almódovar? Stunning performances, complex characters, brilliance!
Director: Pedro Almódovar
Release Date: December 23, 2016
Running Time: 96 minutes
Principal Cast: Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte, Alberto Iglesias
Screenwriter: Pedro Almódovar
Production Companies: El Deseo
Distributor: Warner Brothers
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Thelma Adams, Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Candice Frederick, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Perri Nemiroff, Liz Whittemore, Jeanne Wolf
Edited by Sandra Kraisirideja, AWFJ.org Associate Editor. Written by Dorothy Woodend