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Julieta - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B-

If you know Pedro Almodóvar films, you know they tend to be memorable, and with a specific visual color palette. These characteristics can generally be applied to both his better and his lesser works. Julieta falls somewhere in the middle.

The opening credits, in fact, are classic Almodóvar: what appear to be red drapes as the backdrop behind the opening titles are cleverly revealed to be something entirely different as soon as the credits end. The color is a striking red, which is used a great deal in the costume and set design, from Julieta's fingernail polish to select entire walls in her apartment.

Everything onscreen is meticulously designed and placed with overt intentionality. For audiences who care about such things, Juieta might hold more interest.

The story, on the other hand, is unusually simple, although in typical Almodóvar style, we don't quite realize it until the movie is half over. We meet Julieta as an older woman (Emma Suárez), who hears about her estranged daughter being in town. Most of the story is told in flashback while Julieta writes a long letter to her daughter in a handwritten journal, starting with how she met the girl's father, Xoan (Daniel Grao), and which ultimately reveals why her daughter, at age 18, intentionally disappeared from her life.

The younger Julieta, in flashbacks, is played by the radiant Adriana Ugarte. The story covers the next two decades, and although the two women playing Julieta don't see that similar at first glance, Almodóvar does switch them about halfway through the flashbacks in an impressively subtle way. The progression feels organic.

As does the entire movie, really. It's just relatively slow moving, and takes its sweet time in its reveals. By the time things come around at the end in a way that's intended to be an emotional payoff, it feels oddly abrupt. I'd offer Epiphany as an alternate title for this film. That's really what everything is leading up to.

One wonders how Julieta would play if it were Almodóvar's first film. He's widely seen as one of the best foreign film directors alive today -- and I certainly see him that way as well. There is competence behind the making of his latest, but I wouldn't say there's any genius behind it. It's a quiet tale of mother-daughter love and redemption, and it is satisfying -- if you have the patience to get through it. Any fan of this director's work absolutely will have such patience, and many of them may even declare it a greater film than the simply good one that I found it to be. Anyone else is bound to consider it fine, but unexceptional.

Daniel Grao and Adriana Ugarte meet on a nighttime train in JULIETA.

Overall: B
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