Undeniably, contemporary times has revealed to us how deeply ingrained patriarchy is in our societies. A bitter truth to swallow, most especially for the men in the positions of power, is that the very structures that permit their success is what prevents it for their female counterparts. Women’s fight for equality has been fought for numerous decades by both women in the past and currently in the present. What Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver does excellently is provide an inside view into the lives of women who face the darker sides of patriarchy’s consequences.
In the first few minutes, the film sets itself up to seem to be quite light and to mainly tackle death and the Spanish culture that surrounds it. It was quite eerie how most of the main characters, namely Raimunda, Sole, and Paula, were cleaning the graves of their recently deceased mother. In addition to this, there is also the little tidbit that certain individuals actually buy a plot of land to be their grave and clean it regularly until they have to use it. From here on, the film fully embraces death as one of its central themes and leads to more darker events occurring.
As the family of Raimunda separates, it is revealed that the condition of her house is not desirable, to say the least. It is revealed that her husband, Paco, is quite a poster boy of bums. Unemployed and potentially an alcoholic, Paco can be said to be a good for nothing husband, and even worse, a deplorable father. He is unable to keep his sexual desires in check which eventually leads him to attempt to rape his own daughter. In retaliation, Paula murders her own father for this. What is endearing and a tad bit questionable is how, upon the discovery of these events, Raimunda does not hesitate to take the fall for Paula and immediately sets into action a plan to keep this a secret within the family. Thus begins numerous revelations that surface to Raimunda and her family throughout the duration of the film.
The main revelation that is pertinent is how this cycle of abuse, both physical and emotional, are present generationally in the lives of Raimunda’s family. At the core of all this is the mystery surrounding the inferno that took the lives of Raimunda and Sole’s parents. Up until the time of the death of another family member, their mother was thought to have been consumed by the fire, in the loving arms of their father. However, with the sudden reappearance of Raimunda and Sole’s mother, the absolute truth finally comes out. Their mother was fully aware of their mother’s infidelity, how this was a daily occurence. Yet, what caused her much indignation was when she found out that her own daughter, Raimunda was a victim of rape in the hands of her husband. With her rage, she set the hut where her husband was lying with the mother of Agustina, faking her death in the process. This was both able to reveal why Raimunda easily came to the defense of Paula as well as why Raimunda had grown to despise her own mother.
What is commendable with Almodóvar is that he did not shy away from these unspoken realities that women face. Incest, and later on, cheating are occurrences that women have learned to deal with in silence. The main difference with the family of Raimunda is that they take a stand against these injustices, taking fate into their own hands and preventing themselves to become another victim of men.