Starring: Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Running Time: 128 mins
Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos) is a Spanish film about a former film director and screenwriter who, now impaired by his blindness, recounts the story of his last film, and the time when his entire life was turned on its head.
Never one to shy away from frankly anything in his movies, whether it be graphic sex and nudity or extremely stylistic direction, Pedro Almodóvar puts in another sterling show with Broken Embraces. A visually thrilling watch that incorporates some of the director’s best styles as well as homages to classic film-noir, as well as featuring a properly intriguing story from start to finish, this is definitely one of Almodóvar’s strongest outings of all.
Let’s start with what’s most integral in making this such an engrossing and entertaining watch: the visuals. On the one hand, it’s got Almodóvar’s classically bright primary colour palette, but what really makes this film in particular pop is how it mixes that with its noir-esque imagery.
Going into homage overdrive about halfway through, Broken Embraces becomes an absolutely gorgeous spectacle that shines brightly on the screen whilst bringing impressive depth and tension to its story through its film-noir style. That may sound a little counter-intuitive, but the way Almodóvar pulls it off is quite spectacular, and really makes this film an absolute delight to look at.
And whilst that’s easily my favourite thing about this movie, there’s still a lot that it does really right. For one, its story is hugely intriguing. First of all, the story’s structure, sometimes flipping between two different time periods, sometimes being full flashback, and sometimes not even focusing on the real world, is utterly mad, but it makes for such an entertaining and interesting watch, consistently providing something that’s new and fresh, and keeping you well on your toes for all the twists and turns that come up.
The plot in itself, however, is also very engrossing. Particularly strong in its noir-esque middle portion, feeling a lot like a classic romantic thriller, there’s a lot about the romances and rivalries that spring up over the course of this film that make for riveting watching, and although you almost always get the explanation to anything that happens until long after its occurrence, there’s so much going on in this story that it doesn’t make one bit of difference.
Another key to the film’s success is its central performances. In the lead role, Lluís Homar is excellent, providing that unique blend of dark comedy and emotional turmoil that Almodóvar films do so well, whilst the likes of Penélope Cruz, Blanca Portillo and José Luis Gómez are all instrumental in giving the film an impressive level of dramatic tension around Homar’s character.
The chemistry between those lead four is also fantastic. Although there’s never a point where we see them all together on screen, the various machinations and conflicts that arise in their various relationships all link them brilliantly, and the lead actors carry that out fantastically, helping to cement the drama of the story brilliantly as everything becomes more and more complex and unpredictable.
Overall, I had a great time with Broken Embraces. Principally because it’s such a wonderful film to look at, and its homages to film noir are done absolutely perfectly, but also thanks to its impressive and intriguing story and hugely strong lead performances, so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.9.