Review: Broken Embraces

Los Abrazos Rotos | Pedro Almodovar, 2009

The only other movie from 2009 that I can compare Broken Embraces to is Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Yes, in therm sof story telling and plot they are completely different, but both of them have one very important thing in common: they are just vehicles for their directors to show how much they love cinema. Basterds uses film as a weapon, but Almodovar’s movie uses it as something that can bring people together, as well as tear them apart. Ultimately, Embraces is the weakest of the two, but it is still one of the best movies of the year.

Broken Embraces is the story of a blind man named Harry Caine (Lluis Homar), a former director whose real name is Mateo Blanco. But after the accident that made him lose his sight, he became a screen writer hat went by the pseudonym of Harry Caine. One day, the death of some one and a visit from a dark person from his past, prompts him to tell the tale of his love affair with Lena (Penelope Cruz), the star of what would become his last movie as a director, and the reaction her producer boy friend what when he found out about the affair. It all lead to one of the best finales of the year (coincidentally, right after the one for Basterds).

That description only scratches the surface of everything that happens in the plot. However, the real joy of the movie comes from watching as these events come together and seeing the beauty of the images that are put up on the screen. Almodovar’s direction, the visuals, and the performances are what makes the movie rise above and beyond the plot. The script is fine. The dialogue is engaging, and the scenes are well set up. But the plot is very weak. I’m no Amodovar expert (this is only the second movie from him I’ve seen, the other being Volver), but I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is one of his weakest efforts, and although I loved it, I can see where they are coming from.

With my only problem out of the way, I’m not going to focus on the good. First off, Almodovar and his production team did a great job of transporting me in to the world they created. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto captures the beatuy of the ellaborate and colorful sets. The score by Alberto Iglesias is also quite wonderful

As for the performances, they are universally good. The stand out is Homar, as Mateo/Harry. His portrayal of a blind man may just be the best I’ve ever seen. He is also very good druing the flashbacks. The other stand-out is Cruz, but her performance is not quite as good as some would have you believe. Is it good? Yes, but it is not mind-blowing.

Despite a few hiccups, Broken Embraces is a wonderful and engrossing movie. It is one of the best looking movies of the year, but the direction and the performances make it more than mere eye candy.

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