Review: “Julieta”

Posted by Michael Parsons on December 20, 2016 in / No Comments


I’ll dive right into the newest film from writer director Pedro Almodóvar, “Julieta”. This is a film that I digested at 3:00 AM, in complete silence, before I’d had my first cup of coffee. It dawned on me, with this film, how much even the slightest distraction can detract from an experience, how much less I could’ve appreciated this film if it weren’t the wee hours of the morning, before my senses became tainted by the day’s frenzy.

I’m not going to watch every movie at 3:00 in the morning. I don’t imagine it would matter much with “Captain America: Civil War”. But “Julieta”, a story about loss, not just death, but loss of self and time, is powerful enough to make one consider such things.

It’s never certain where Almodóvar  is going to take you, or how he’s going to get you there: for example, you might walk away from this beautifully nuanced character study julieta_ver2_xlgfeeling pensive and a bit melancholy,  then watch his “The Skin I Live In” only to be emotionally scarred for the foreseeable.

If you’re familiar with the Spanish auteur, grief is virtually preordained.  “Julieta” impugns the axiom truth is stranger than fiction, because the film feels so much like truth; epiphanies  aren’t synonymous with joy, loss comes in so many forms. Regret is purgatory. Life is fragile.

Emma Suárez plays the enigmatic title character, who lives comfortably in Madrid with highly regarded artist boyfriend Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti). They’re practically on their way out the door to Portugal when Julieta abruptly withdraws from the relationship. News that her estranged daughter of 12 years, Antia,  lives nearby and has three children, is cause for her to essentially cancel her future and rent out an apartment in the building where she lived years ago.

Whatever distant tragedy that has come and gone is suddenly a gaping wound again. Her memoirs take us back twenty some years, when a young Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) is on a train, where she meets suave Xoan (Daniel Grao), Antia’s father-to-be. Immediately thereafter, an older man commits suicide by throwing himself from the car; Julieta feels guilty, having previously ignored the man when he’d attempted to strike up a conversation.

A foreshadowing of sorts, whether it be karma or just fate, this is one of several moments that will shape Julieta’s life, another a result of Xoan’s ongoing affair with friend Ava (Imna Cuesta) that will eventually cause Antia (Priscilla Delgado, Blanca Parés) to disconnect. The film follows a ripple effect: it’s never just about adultery or suicide. Almodóvar’s deconstruction  of Julieta unfurls in a wrenching  performance by Ugarte, and then taken over by Suárez, who saps the character for everything she’s got as she relapses into inconsolable guilt.

Select Cities December 21st

— M. Parsons

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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