In his just-released Volver (Sony Classics), director-writer Pedro Almodovar “acknowledges misfortune — and takes it seriously — from a perspective that is essentially comic,” says N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott. “Very few filmmakers have managed to smile so convincingly in the face of misery and fatality: Jean Renoir and Billy Wilder come immediately to mind, and Mr. Almodovar, if he is not yet their equal, surely belongs in their company.
Volver is often dazzling in its artifice — Jose Luis Alcaine‘s ripe cinematography, Alberto Iglesias’s suave, heart-tugging score — but it is never false. It draws you in, invites you to linger and makes you eager to return. It offers something better than realism. The real world, after all, is where we all have to live; for some of us, though, Mr. Almodovar’s world is home.”
Admirations pledged to star Penelope Cruz and costar Carmen Maura are nothing to sneer at either:
With her Volver performance Cruz “inscribes her name near the top of any credible list of present-day flesh-and-blood screen goddesses, in no small part because she manages to be earthy, unpretentious and a little vulgar without shedding an ounce of her natural glamour.
“What’s more, Almodovar has cast Maura, one of the stars of his early, madcap period, as Raimunda’s mother, who seems to have returned from the dead to add a touch of the gothic (and the surreal) to the proceedings . Maura’s warm good humor is a crucial element in the film’s emotional design. It is a chronicle, mostly, of tragedy and horror, rendered in bright, happy colors.”