The films of Pedro Almodóvar are popularly characterised as something on par with telenovelas, colourful and melodramatic to the point of shrillness. What unites his films for me isn’t the vibrant female protagonists nor the playful interrogation of gender, but rather a wistful, even mournful tone.
That sense of regret is especially pronounced in Julieta, which feels like a quieter sister of All About My Mother. Julieta also uses the loss of a child to stage a dive into long-repressed memories; but this time, the focus is squarely on the past. Our eponym is played by two actresses – Adriana Ugarte as a young woman in the 1980s and Emma Suárez in the present day – but despite framing the story as a flashback, its Ugarte’s story that resonates most strongly. Suárez feels small in comparison, a faded photograph of a brighter time.
That’s intentional. When Julieta unfolds bitter secrets and infidelities late in the piece, the drama feels consciously muted, as though time has worn the effervescence of youth into a place of maturity that’s at once wiser and sadder. The film concludes with the hope that past wounds can be healed, but a sombre recognition that the past is gone forever.