Volver: A Celebration of Women

Penélope Cruz and Yohana Cobo

“Every one in this movie is a liar, but I love them all just the same.” says one review on this 2006 Spanish film by Pedro Almodovar.

There is something infectious about Volver that is moving and incredibly heartwarming. Whether it’s the passionate take on a melodrama or the commanding performances that are drawn out from the leading actors. I found myself deeply hooked onto this soap-opera, yearning for the characters’ domestic lives and being absorbed into all the drama they’re surrounded with. I can’t help but wonder that this might be the secret of soap-operas that have run for years. People find themselves coming back to this form of storytelling because it’s over-bloated with many events that it becomes addicting.

The movie is no exception in the the over-bloatedness of soap dramas. I was actually shocked while watching the film on how much content was served in the movie from being a fable about ghosts, to a homicide, to a cancer-stricken drama, to a story on abuse. Yet they all surprisingly blend well together without even being heavy at all. You’d think that bombarding a movie with that many depressing themes would be too much, but the film was able to handle them, and I think that is Almodovar’s talent.

He took a simply domestic story and blew it up to a point of almost being a fantasy. He then successfully incorporated emotionally stirring tragedies into the character’s lives while intelligently weaving them with high-spirited joyful scenes that ultimately balanced the whole narrative. It is in this sense of balance that makes Volver such a compelling film to watch.

As you watch Volver, things reveal themselves as not being what they initially seem. A mystery is always lurking in its atmosphere and the film keeps changing genres, moving from theme to theme. Volver manages to surprise us, with shocking occurrences scene by scene that we are just forced to accept that this is a movie that refuses to be boxed. Always it comes and shocks, potentially changing the ways to look at the story and its characters. Almodovar doesn’t cheat his audiences by providing a twist with no weight to anchor it, the revealed details are always within its world, it may change the way we look at the film, but it never changes to the point of being out-of-hand. It sometimes becomes ridiculous, but never too illogical. Everything is built up in its exposition, and then delivered with emotional force that strikes the heart.

The film’s themes of death, abuse, confession, and womanhood are on full display here. But it is in the theme of confession that Volver makes a fascinating story of its characters. The characters are stricken by the abuse and damage of men, leading its women to fight back, sometimes ending in drastic results. These become weight for these women to bear, a secret that they must keep for the benefit of themselves and those they love. But at the end, the movie states the importance of confession, a necessary ritual that must be undertaken to clear the consciences of these women. And those careful considerations of those characters’ stories are what make the film a celebration of women. Women are highlighted as multi-layered individuals able to decide for themselves as well as carry their own narratives.

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