Penelope Cruz, Yohana Cobo, Carmen Maura, Lola Duenas, Blanca Portillo

Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 4
Community: star rating
5 4 0
November 2, 2006

There is no director alive more connected to the hearts, minds and mysteries of women than Spain's Pedro Almodovar. With a string of masterworks stretching from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown to All About My Mother and Talk to Her, Almodovar is a filmmaker worth following anywhere. In Volver ("return"), a movie that leaps off the screen to take its place in your dreams, the writer-director tells a ghost story that manages to include lust, incest, rape and murder. You'll laugh, too — wildly, helplessly — because to Almodovar, laughter is life.

The opening scene is set in La Mancha (Almodovar's birthplace), at a cemetery where Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) and her sister Sole (Lola Duenas) fight the wind to clean the gravestones of their parents, who died in bed in a fire. Or did they? Almodovar keeps his movie as intimate as a whisper that makes us lean in to uncover its dark secrets.

For starters, the sisters have an aunt (Chus Lampreave) who claims their mom, Irene (the miraculous Carmen Maura reunited with Almodovar after seventeen years), has returned from the dead to take care of her. No one doubts it, especially Sole, who passes off Irene as a Russian and puts her to work in the illegal beauty salon she runs in her apartment.

When Raimunda is around, ghost mom hides under a bed, coming out to help only when Raimunda's teen daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo) claims to have stabbed Raimunda's husband, Paco (Antonio de la Torre), when he tried to rape her. That's when Raimunda hides the body in a freezer in a restaurant, where she serves food to a visiting film crew. Throw in neighbor Augustina (Blanca Portillo), who's dying of cancer but not before she adds a new twist.

Got that? No matter. Plot is merely Almodovar's way into the souls of his women. With the help of six extraordinary actresses, who shared the acting prize at Cannes, Almodovar crafts one of the year's best films. Cruz, never more voluptuous (think Sophia Loren in Two Women) or vulnerable, is a force of nature fully deserving her Oscar buzz. She's that good. Volver is Almodovar's passionate tribute to the community of women — living and dead — who nurtured him. Through the transformative power of his art — carried on the wings of Alberto Iglesias' exhilarating score — we feel their presence. You do not want to miss this one.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »