Movie Details

BROKEN EMBRACES

A man writes, lives and loves in darkness. Fourteen years ago, he was in a brutal car crash on the island of Lanzarote. In the accident, he not only lost his sight, he also lost the love of his life, Lena. The story of Mateo, Lena, Judit and Ernesto Martel is a story of "amour fou," dominated by fatality, jealously, the abuse of power, treachery and a guilt complex.

Language: Spanish
Subtitle: NA
Classification: M18
Release Date: 13 May 2010
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 2 Hours 7 Minutes
Distributor: SHAW ORGANISATION
Cast: Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portilla, José Luis Gómez
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Format: NA

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Review
Writer: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang Yang

Writer Ratings:
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Watch this if you liked: “Volver”, “Talk To Her”

Pedro Almodovar's oeuvre reads like a catalogue of must-watch movies for any fan of modern European cinema, however it's not surprising that many critics who admire the Spanish maestro are now the same people who feel that he has not reinvented himself or offered anything refreshing in recent years. "Los Abrazos Rotos" a.k.a. "Broken Embraces" is fuel to this fire of discontent.

It's surprising how Almodovar films still continue to warrant maximum attention (like this one being in contention for the Palme d'Or at Cannes recently) when he once again casts his regulars (Penelope Cruz, Ángela Molina and Lola Dueñas among others) in yet another decidedly dark, rich, contextual drama with plenty of repressed emotions and various other unsavoury aspects of adult life related to damaged youth. Obviously it's what he's comfortable doing (and doing well at) but watching an Almodovar film can turn into an exercise in tedium if this is all we're going to get.

In "Abrazos Rotos", blind Spanish scribe Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar, older priest in "La Mala Educación" 2004) starts referring to himself as Harry Caine after a tragic accident 14 years ago that changed his life forever. Through flashbacks, we learn that he wasn't always blind, and that he was once in love with a beautifully arresting woman he turned into an actress - Lena (Penelope Cruz) - but she was unfortunately involved with a powerful but jealous man named Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gómez).

Not to risk giving anything away, the story a mazy exploration with themes of guilt, abandonment, envy and foiled ambition; and for once, the awkward English title "Broken Embraces" does mean something. However, while the movie largely works as a feature film, it is beset on all sides by a self-referential production that begs the question - are Almodovar films really that great? In "Broken Embraces", the movie seems to ride off his magnificent presence and is held together by his powerful obsession with the technically gorgeous. There is rich detail and colour in every frame and the picture is backed by a suitably sombre music as well.

As Cat Power's 'Werewolf' plays to underscore a scene about a doomed relationship (same song for Jessica Biel's waxy strip sequence in "Powder Blue" 2009), we can attest to Almodovar's absorbing brilliance in packaging his cast around neat little tales with wonderful layers. It's just that a man so technically accomplished may need to do more than just being prolific and adequate if he were to really live up to what people expect from him as Spain's best regarded filmmaker since Luis Buñuel.

Cinema Online, 10 May 2010
   
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Classification
Effective 15 July 2011
G - Suitable for all ages
PG - Suitable for all ages, but parents should provide guidance to their young
PG13 - Suitable for persons aged 13 and above, but parental guidance is advised for children below 13
NC16 - Suitable for persons aged 16 years and above
M18 - Suitable for persons aged 18 years and above
R21 - Restricted to persons aged 21 and above only
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