In some weird way I think foreign films get passes that English language films never do. I don’t know if some critical synapse turns off when we reviewers read subtitles but in general I think many of the foreign films that collect American accolades wouldn’t make near the dent if presented in our native language. There are exceptions to this rule, Infernal Affairs comes immediately to mind, but Volver doesn’t get all the way there. It gets most of the way, but not all the way. If Volver was an American movie it would do fair at the box office on opening weekend but would fade away quickly after that. It certainly wouldn’t get anything resembling Oscar consideration. That doesn’t make it a bad film, it just makes it a film very prone to being overrated.
The word Volver is Spanish for “coming back.” The movie takes place in Spain and the Spanish countryside with Penelope Cruz as the main character, Raimunda. Raimunda has a daughter, a husband, some small town relatives and a convoluted past. The movie travels thematically from that small town all the way to Madrid and from modern day problems to deep dark secrets. It’s well done in terms of innovativeness and keeping you on your toes. I didn’t notice the story being telegraphed at any point which means they were working with a quality script. Cruz was also pretty good as a hot tempered gal with a heart of gold, although I swear she played a part very similar to this in Woman on Top. One of the weaker points for me was actually her daughter. Either the character or the actor wasn’t dynamic enough. It was a difficult role but overall I’ve got to call it a miss.
Volver is a film that film buffs will enjoy. It has nice atmosphere and the story, though a little lengthy, has heart and warmth. The themes tackled are crazy relatives, loyalty, superstition, murder, love, cooking, capitalism, adultery, familial obligationÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ well, you get the idea. Volver isn’t short on conflicts or ideas. It is short on action and doesn’t have the “pop” that truly great films have. It’s a good film, worth a matinee or date night. If you don’t like slower films, or aren’t a fan of European style cinema – well then clearly this isn’t for you. Choose your own adventure based on your predilections.