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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Volver

Volver is a 2006 drama film by Pedro Almadovar. It revolves around a family and their problematic pasts and present.

This film felt like a spanish teleserye for me as it had so many twists and turns. First, the kid kills (in self-defense) the dad, who isn’t really his dad. (:O) And then the mom’s mom, who supposedly died in a fire is ALIVE. (:O) And then the mom’s sister is apparently also her CHILD bc her dad was a sexual abuser (:O) and their sick neighbor’s mother was having an affair with the mom’s dad and that’s who died in the fire. (:O) I totally get how spanish teleseryes influenced Philippine TV after this film.

The film was nicely structured, although it was pretty long because of a lot of dialogue. But it kept me interested enough to pay attention. The twists definitely helped me keep track of what was happening.

I would recommend this film to people who enjoy teleseryes and films with a lot of dialogue.

Volver: Femininity at its Finest

Volver is a slap on the face of machismo in Spain. In a country known steeped in machismo, a film that tackles femininity through the daily problems of a typical family can seem quite odd at first. It can even be compared to mainland Chinese being expected to teach other people how to use Facebook when they are banned from using Facebook themselves.

However, Volver successfully captures the essence of feminism shockingly well. Its dark but funny script makes for a memorable experience that women from all corners of the world would surely find enjoyable.

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The female characters in the film prove that it is possible to exude strength and power even in a society where women are taught to stay home, sit pretty, and satisfy their husbands’ sexual desires. In fact, Raimunda does the exact opposite of all these things. Being the best mother she can be, Raimunda works to support her daughter, Paula. She even rejected her husband, Paco, when he came on to her one night. Perhaps because of this unmet sexual need, Paco chose to force himself on Paula. But we all know this was a stupid move done by him which cost him his own life. Well-deserved, if you ask me.

volverAfter Paco’s death, Raimunda’s life changed in a good way. She did not just become the head chef of a restaurant, which she became very passionate about, she also became a happier person– singing with a band on a random Spanish street. Without a doubt, the male characters in Volver were antagonistic, unreliable, and useless. Raimunda’s father did not just rape her, he also cheated on his wife with a different woman. Aside from this, Sole’s husband left her without notice. And as we already know, Raimunda’s husband lost his job and then attempted to rape his own daughter.

film__3144-volver--hi_res-fa2b66bbUltimately, the way the male characters slowly eased out of the film and were not really given much attention to shows how they don’t really have that much importance to the women they left behind. A sense of sisterhood and of female togetherness were enough to support one another and carry on with their lives in flying colors.

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Moreover, there were a lot of topics present in the film, including incest, sexual abuse, and motherhood. Aside from these, I believe that self-fulfillment was also an important factor which contributed to the women’s identities. Although women were not supposed to work, Sole had a successful salon hidden in her apartment, which she enjoyed very much. Besides this, Raimunda’s restaurant was a hit to her customers, which brought her great achievement. This says a lot about the significance of finding something that you are passionate about, which can also define you as a person. I can relate to this as my philosophy in life. For me, it’s not enough to merely survive, you also have to make something of yourself in order to live. How Sole and Raimunda were able to do this in a society which restricted women from doing so explicitly demonstrates women empowerment. Above all, Sole and Raimunda give me hope that if they were able to become successful women given the society they were in, what more, I?

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Volver by Pedro Almodóvar

Volver revolved around the lives of a family of women, Raimunda (played by Penelope Cruz), with her sister Sole (played by Lola Duenas), her daughter Agustina (played by Blanca Portillo), and their mother Irene (played by Carmen Maura) as they deal with everyday family issues and problems with a little side of murder and so called resurrection. The story was full of surprises and twists that were very ‘only there for the shock value’ sort of things in my opinion. Yet beyond that I truly enjoyed the film and the colorful world that it presented. What was so different from the other films that we watched for the class was how familial the themes of the movie were. It was also nice to have a very female centered empowering family oriented one at that. I also enjoyed the setting because it was different from the very cold and vast earthy environments that were used in the other films. The movie was set in a somewhat suburban and colorful environment which I enjoyed.

The plot though very dramatic with incest, murder, and arson were all quite heavy yet the movie’s tone was one that was light and simple to understand. At the end of the day what was important was the bond of these women and how they were able to rise up even with these issues setting aside their differences towards forgiveness. In a sense the movie was like ‘coming back’, returning to what once was that is familiar and safe. And what other way to feel this comfort than with your family? With women who have raised you to help inspire you to be who you are today. What was so interesting about this is that even with the family confessing all these things and having there mother somewhat come back from the dead, they do not seem to bother that much about and continue on. The love and respect I had for these women! They had to go through so much trauma and pain but they still stood up for themselves and took life by its balls and just went on! Raimunda got that restaurant even with having to suffer abuse from her father and her horrible husband. Irene got to confess to her daughters and be free from the guilt and be able to atone for the sins she committed.

Over all I really enjoyed this movie and the importance it gave to family. That we can be able to forgive and move on from the past to repair and create a better future with the people that we love. Although I wished there was more to the end other than the promise of Raimunda and Irene to fix their relationship but to actually see it happening would have been a very nice way to wrap everything up. In the end I highly recommend this movie for the plot and the great acting. Also especially with us Filipinos having a very high value on family and our relationships.