In Julieta, critically acclaimed director Pedro Almodovar tells a story about a mother's struggle to survive uncertainty and come to grips with fate.
Julieta lives in Madrid with her daughter Antia. They are both in pain over the loss of Xoan, Antia's father and Julieta's husband. But sometimes grief doesn't bring people closer, it drives them apart. When Antia turns eighteen, she abandons her mother without a word of explanation. Julieta is haunted by the mystery of this loss and it pervades everything in her life. Her struggle and obsession lead to self discovery and surprising revelations.
Evoking such earlier Almodóvar films as High Heels and All About My Mother, Julieta reflects on the magic of chance encounters and the fragility of relationships in the face of long-buried secrets. Written and Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, Julieta is based on the short stories "Chance," "Soon" and "Silence" by Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Munro. Agustín Almodóvar and Esther García produced the film.
Whether or not a relationship is successful is dependent entirely upon how well people interact with one another. Friendships, workplace acquaintances, even our own blood relatives require a varying degree of openness and willingness to engage. When one person shuts down or hides parts of their life from the other, the relationship begins to struggle - even if there aren't any overt signs of trouble. Pedro Almodóvar's Julieta is an examination of the troubled relationship between a mother and her daughter and how secrets can lead to devastating consequences.
Julieta (Emma Suárez) seemingly has a terrific life. She has a beautiful apartment in Madrid and lives quite comfortably. She has a terrific relationship with Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti) and the two are on the cusp of moving to Portugal while he writes a book. Everything is going along terrifically until Julieta experiences a chance encounter with Beatriz (Michelle Jenner). After that day, Julieta changes. She ends her relationship with Lorenzo without giving him a reason. She packs up her luxury apartment and moves to the other side of the city into the old building where she lived with as a young woman with her daughter Antia (Priscilla Delgado). As Julieta unpacks, she begins to write to her estranged daughter that she hasn't seen in over a decade about her life as a young woman (Adriana Ugarte). She writes about the chance encounter on a train that drew her to Antia's father Xoan (Daniel Grao), and ultimately the secret that drove them apart with tragic consequences.
Through countless films, Pedro Almodóvar has proven that he is a filmmaker with an impeccable eye for human drama. Whether he's designing a dark comedy like I'm So Excited or a thriller like The Skin I Live In, he has a knack for creating human characters and interactions. With Julieta, Almodóvar explores the impact of secrets on relationships. Based on the stories by Alice Munro, much of the film is focused on how Emma Suárez's older Julieta reflects on her younger self, played by Adriana Ugarte, and her relationship with Daniel Grao's Xoan. Through these reflections, we come to understand the current state of Julieta's relationship with her daughter.
As we learn the details of Julieta's life, we come to learn she's made her life work by holding back her own truths and secrets just as much as those around her. It's a very human story that doesn't pull any punches. As in real life, when someone does something wrong, it has a tendency to be extremely emotionally painful.
While Almodóvar would naturally be content to stage the film as a traditional "journaling drama" where someone looks back on their life through pen and paper, I applaud him for not exactly going down that path. While those traditional dramatic elements are at play, the film actually plays things more in the vein of a dark and ominous thriller. As the story progresses and we come to know how Julieta and Xoan met on a train and shared a passionate encounter that forever changed their lives, the film gradually grows darker. Shadows become more and more intense.
As Julieta continues her story, Alberto Inglesias' score becomes more ominous. You start to feel like there could be a killer in the room, waiting in those shadows with a knife. But there isn't a traditional killer, only the truth. As Julieta recounts these moments as she experienced them, we put the pieces of the puzzle together to form the fractured picture her life. Through it all, the cast delivers a series of impressive performances. As great as Almodóvar's writing and direction are, it's the cast that brings this all home. As each member is integral to the plot, it's difficult to single out a bright and shining star, but I must say Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte do a terrific job of playing the same woman separated by decades of life experiences. The transition between the two actresses is seamless as you fully accept they are the same character.
Like so many of Almodóvar's films, chance plays a big part in how Julieta plays out. If the older Julieta hadn't run into Beatriz, she wouldn't have given a second thought about her estranged daughter. It isn't that she doesn't care about her, she deeply loves her daughter, but her compartmentalizing is what she's had to do to go on with her own life and find some semblance of happiness. Chance brings people together, and chance can break them apart. I wish I could go into more detail on the latter front, but I don't want to give anything away. That said, Julieta is a tense and emotional film. It's relatable because, in some way, all of us have had that sort of experience. We all have best friends we no longer talk to. We all have family members we've grown apart from. While most of our experiences probably don't mirror Julieta's, the situations are certainly relatable. Julieta is another brilliant piece of filmmaking delivered by a master storyteller.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Julieta arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. The film is pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc and comes housed in a standard sturdy snapper Blu-ray case. The disc loads to a preview celebrating the extensive library of Almodóvar films available through Sony Pictures Classics and trailers for other upcoming releases before reaching a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Shot digitally, Julieta enjoys a strikingly beautiful 1.85:1 1080p transfer. Details are astonishing as every piece of clothing, facial features, locations, and the incredible production design work is on display. Often times I wanted to pause the disc just to look at it. Colors are rich with vibrant primaries. Blue and Red play a thematic importance throughout the film and virtually every scene features one or both colors. Flesh tones are accurate and healthy without looking too pink or pale. Even with the heightened primaries, the film tends to favor the warmer yellows. Black levels are deep and inky allowing for an intense sense of depth to the image. Again going back to the feeling that this movie plays more like a thriller, you constantly feel like something is lurking in the background. The image is free of any notable compression issues. A damn beautiful looking film.
Julieta arrives with a solid Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix with English subtitles. Dialogue comes through clean and clear. Even when there is a lot more action with packed Madrid streets and city noise, dialogue never suffers. Through the sound effects, atmospherics, narration and the beautiful Alberto Inglesias score, there is a terrific sense of space. Even in the most cramped settings like a train car or in the small room where Xoan repairs his fishing nets, there is a notable sense of dimension. Going back to the Inglesias score, there is also a subtle but pronounced LFE effect as the lower register notes heighten the sense of dread to certain scenes. Free of any issues, this is a beautiful audio mix.
For such an amazing film, I really would have loved some more bonus features packed into it. Some longer cast and crew interviews would have been amazing as this is a very dense piece of work.
Portrait of Julieta: (HD 8:51) This is a brief but still interesting and informative look at the various themes of the film.
Celebrating Director Pedro Almodóvar: (HD 8:15) This is a brief look at the Almodóvar retrospective hosted at MoMA. It's mostly a bunch of quick red carpet style interviews with the people how knew him and admire his work with a little bit of time given to Almodóvar on stage addressing the crowd ahead of the screening of Julieta.
As his 20th feature film, Pedro Almodóvar shows he is still a master storyteller at the top of his game. Julieta is a thoughtful and sometimes tense and suspenseful look at relationships and communication between people, framed through a woman examining her life with her daughter. It's an engrossing film that sucks you in and doesn't let you go. You're going to want to see it more than once, I assure you.
Sony Pictures Classics brings Julieta to Blu-ray in terrific form with a gorgeous video presentation and a wonderful audio mix to match. Unfortunately, bonus features are on the slim side. For the film itself, this Blu-ray comes Highly Recommended.