Reviewed by: Symon Parsons

A crazy wind blows through La Mancha, affecting the townsfolk and stirring up leaves to litter the graves. The graves are tended by the women of the town, who reflect on their longevity, as opposed to the men who have left them widows.

The only exception to this rule is the mother of Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Sole (Lola Dueñas) who died in the arms of their father during a fire, fuelled by that same wind. So it comes as something of a surprise to Sole when she discovers said late mother (Carmen Maura) haunting the boot of her car.

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Raimunda, unaware of this, has problems of her own. She is broke and married to an unemployed drinker, and her life becomes a great deal more complicated when she unexpectedly finds she has a dead body to dispose of and a restaurant to run. Worse still, she's perplexed, on visiting her sister, to find that Sole is acting very strangely indeed, with a cupboard full of their mother's clothes and an apartment that smells of their mother's farts. Will she be able to cope?

You can watch this film in one of two ways. You could watch it as a story of the past haunting the present, returning and repeating until problems are laid to rest. Or you could just sit back and enjoy the wild, humorous and sweet-natured ride. All the acting is top-rate with a special mention for Maura as the well-meaning mother, trying to put right all that she left undone, and Dueñas gives a wonderful comic turn as Sole, terrified and bewildered by turns.

Still, essentially it's Cruz's film - Almodóvar's camera loves her, swooning over the terrain of her hips and curves as lovingly as it does with the Spanish countryside. But she's more than mere scenery here, giving a fine performance that demands she move effortlessly from comedy to drama without a jarring note. Her Raimunda is a woman desperately trying to escape her own personal history, even as her mother comes crashing back into her life with the past packed neatly in her suitcase.

Lighter and more loveable than much of Pedro Almodóvar's recent work, Volver is good fun - a screwball comedy with soul, drama and even a song. You'd be hard-hearted not to allow this crazy wind to affect you too.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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A dead woman returns home in spirit to comfort her daughters.
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Chris ****1/2

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Writer: Pedro Almodóvar

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas

Year: 2006

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain


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