Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Pedro Almodóvar's latest effort Broken Embraces definitely is not lacking in the drama department. Released through Sony Classics, the story is about Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar), a Spanish film director who also goes by the pseudonom Harry Caine. In the film, Mateo revisits a series of events 14 years ago leading up to the tragic car accident involving his lover Lena (Penélope Cruz) and resulting in his blindness.
Mateo and Lena become involved in a torrid love affair working on a film titled Girls and Suitcases. Lena however, is the mistress of a wealthy businessman Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez) who offers to produce the film, and his jealousy and betrayal lead to disastrous consequences. The secondary storyline involving Mateo's confidante/assistant Judit (Blanca Portillo) and her son Diego (Tamar Novas) ties up neatly at the film where we learn that they actually play very integral roles to the main plot.
Don't get me wrong, I love Almodóvar's work. It always has that right combination of intensity, passion, wit and thoroughness in storytelling. He does however test our patience a bit here with throwing in surprise after surprise just as the film seemingly is wrapping up and this admittedly is a bit frustrating. As always, Cruz is effervescent and looks absolutely breathtaking even when she is pretending to be a laughably bad actress. Her chemistry with Homar is explosive and although not quite as superb as her work on Almodóvar's Volver, she once again delivers here as a woman who lives and breathes love. We are fixated with her even though her morals are questionable. And Homar truly understands the subtleties required of his character, embodying a strong self-presence pre and post tragedy. In all honesty, Broken Embraces was a bit contrived for my liking, but then again, what was expecting right? Grade: B
As an aside, popular Canadian television personality George Stroumboulopoulos was watching the film too and we had a chat in the bathroom about the film afterwards. He loved it, especially the surprise punch Portillo drops at the ending. A fan of Cruz, I recommended he check out NINE also even though he was a little hesitant since he's heard nothing but bad things about it. George, if you do check it out let us know your thoughts! I think I just may see it a third time tomorrow....