Volver is the award-winning film from 2006 about two sisters and their journey to discover their past after the untimely death of their parents. The film was the 16th cinematic work by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, and stars a number of great Spanish actresses including Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura.
The film is set in the region of La Mancha in Spain, where Almodóvar was born, and deals with themes such as death, loneliness and tradition. Although less over the top as some of Almodóvar's earlier films, Volver still contains a number of his characteristic film styles: farce, comedy, tragedy, melodrama, and magical realism.
The plot of Volver is quite complicated and makes many turns and twists along the way that will grab your attention and keep you firmly seated. The film begins with two orphaned sisters, Raimunda and Sole, who are originally from a village called Alcanfor de las Infantas, but now live in Madrid. After their aunt dies, Sole makes the trip back to their hometown for the funeral. While there, her aunt's old neighbor Agustina tells Sole that she used to hear the aunt talking to their dead mother, and that she has seen the ghost of her mother around the village. Sure enough, when Sole goes to her aunt's house, the ghost of her mother appears.
On returning to Madrid, Sole discovers that the ghost of her mother stowed away in the trunk of her car, bringing with her a suitcase in order to spend some time with her daughter. Although clearly frightened by this prospect, Sole lets her mother stay with her. To disguise her identity, Sole's mother pretends to be a Russian woman and helps out her daughter in her hair salon. Sole tries to work out why her mother has been sent back, to which her mother replies it is because she needs to repair the relation with her other daughter, Raimunda.
In the meantime, Raimunda and her daughter Paula have another problem to deal with: that of the body of Paula's father, Paco. Paula stabbed Paco and killed him after he tried to rape her, saying that he wasn't her real father. Raimunda then hides the body in the freezer of the restaurant which she has been looking after for an absent friend. Agustina, from the village, is diagnosed with cancer, and while Raimunda comes to visit her, she asks Raimunda to ask her mother's ghost about what happened to her own mother. Later, she hires a van and transports the freezer out of town and buries it. She leaves her daughter with Sole, and while at her aunt's house, Paula meets the ghost of her grandmother, with whom she starts forming a great relationship.
After re-starting her career in the restaurant industry by striking a deal with a film crew who are in the area, Raimunda is once again approached by Agustina. However this time, Agustina reveals two secrets: that Raimunda's father and her mother were having an affair and that Agustina's mother disappeared at the same time as the death of Raimunda's parents. Sole then confesses that she has been housing the ghost of their mother, which leads to a series of discussions in which even more secrets about who is related to who and what happened all those years ago.
Awards and Recognition
Despite being a much softer version than some of his other films, there are still a number of elements that make this a classic Almodóvar film, such as the use of color and attention to detail. Furthermore, this film is a great representation of the culture and superstitions held by those in the region of La Mancha, the director's home region. Coupled with the excellent performances of all the main actresses, both new and veteran, Volver is considered by many to be one of the best Spanish films of the last few years.
Volver received a welcomed set of praise from audiences with 19 top critics putting it in their top 10 films of 2006. Furthermore, the film, its cast and its crew won a bundle of awards, including:
- 2006 Cannes film festival (best actress & screenplay)
- Empire award (best actress)
- European film award (best director & actress)
- Goya awards (best film, actress, screenplay)
- National board of review (best foreign film)
- Satellite awards (best foreign film)
- Vancouver film critics (best foreign film)