Monday, November 20, 2017

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #179 - Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos) (2009, dir. Pedro Almodóvar)

“For years, Mateo Blanco and Harry Caine shared the same body, mine. But a moment came when suddenly I could only be Harry Caine. I became my pseudonym. A self-made writer made by himself. There was just one unforseen detail. Harry Caine would be a blind writer.”

In 2009, when Broken Embraces was released, I was nearing the end of my degree in film studies, yet I hadn’t found my way to the films of Pedro Almodóvar. Having heard amazing things about the director I decided to go and see what all of the fuss was about, and I was certainly not disappointed. The delicate way that Almodóvar dealt with such a complex and inherently human narrative blew me away and thus began my love affair with the director.

The story begins toward the end of the storyline, introducing us to Harry Caine (Lluís Homar), a blind screenwriter with a penchant for beautiful women and spinning intricate storylines. As a seemingly unimportant news story comes up in conversation, Almodóvar takes the story back in time to 1992, where we meet Lena (Penélope Cruz) and her seemingly stern yet benevolent boss Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez). Lena’s father is quite sick, and through a series of quick events, Ernesto comes to Lena’s rescue to provide her father with the best possible care thus sparking the evolution of their relationship. Bouncing back and forth from 2008 and 1994 we slowly learn more about Harry, his friend and representative Judit (Blanca Portillo), her son/Harry’s writing assistant Diego (Tamar Novas), and the ways that all of their lives are more connected to each other and the scenes from the past than initially seemed. Lena always hoped to be an actress, and after years of living with Ernesto, she decides to try and pursue that dream. She ends up at the office of screenwriter and director Mateo Blanco (Who we also know as Harry Caine). Blanco sees something in Lena and decides to cast her in the lead of the film he is about to begin shooting. The two begin to fall for each other thus creating a complicated web of affairs that leaves the viewer yearning for more reveals through the jumps in time.

The density of the narrative could easily get away from a lesser director yet Pedro Almodóvar masterfully and gently weaves this tale with a doting attention to detail and understanding of the subtleties inherent in the human condition.  Coupled with stunning performances from the entire cast, but especially Homar, Cruz, Gómez, and Portillo, Broken Embraces is a fantastic tale of love, loss, and the ability to move forward despite epic tragedy.

What makes this film such a triumph, in my humble opinion, is the fact that the weight of the drama of the film is balanced with the levity, tenderness, and humor that truly makes life enjoyable. I can’t recommend this film enough, as it is a truly gorgeously woven tale of the human condition in all of its facets. Check it out and see for yourself, you will not be sorry you did!

-          Edward Hill

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