Cannes 2016: Pedro Almodovar Confronts Loss in "Julieta"

I loved watching the latest Pedro Almodovar film, Julieta, based on three short stories by Alice Munro. It's not that the story is particularly strong. It's not. A fresh young beautiful girl (Adriana Ugarte), free and open to life, falls for a man she meets on a train, marries him, gives birth and then--when tragedy hits--goes into a deep depression. She becomes a new Julieta (played by the older actress Emma Suarez), one with regrets, and a deep sense of loss, which compounds when yet another tragedy hits, with her daughter.

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Adriana Ugarte

What made this movie such a rewarding experience is that I felt in the hands of a sage older director, who cares about the wisdom he is sharing with us. In a nutshell: forgive the people in your life, because later it will be too late, and it will weigh on you.

"The past will show up for you to deal with," Suarez told me. "In this film, the past shows up for Julieta. When it does, she has a choice. To either go to Portugal with her new companion, or deal with the past. She deals with it. In doing so, she gains dignity."

The film is also about guilt, which Julieta suffers an inordinate amount of even before any personal tragedy hits. In an early scene on a train, an older grim man wishes to chat the pretty girl up, and Julieta quickly takes off--and hence meets the man of her life in the dining car. The older man in the meantime commits suicide.

The girl thinks it is her fault.

Could this be an over-abundance of Catholic guilt?

"Yes in Spain we have a strong sense of guilt," the younger "Julieta" (Ugarte) told me earnestly. "In a certain way, I am like Julieta. Julieta feels guilty in a very deep way, in a violent way. Pedro once told me: 'you feel guilty all day.' I am always worried about the result and success in a scene. He said: don't worry, you are a very good girl."

"We humans all have a sense of guilt," said the older Julieta. "I try to free myself of those feelings. I prefer to think about responsibility."

The film has a lush, patient feel. Each scene has a rich sense of time, whether it's Julieta's fresh arrival to the sea-side house of her future husband, waiting for him in a sunny parlour, to the sad scenes of Julieta mourning for her daughter in her spartan Madrid apartment. While the story under-awes and key issues remain undeveloped, the passage of time bears weight.

It is a film that lingers.