“Broken Embraces” marks the fourth collaboration between Oscar winners Penélope Cruz and Pedro Almodóvar. The magic these two bring to the big screen has yet to wear out. Although not completely ruined by its subplots, “Broken Embraces” is a forgettable, yet good film.
A film based on films, “Broken Embraces” is a unique love story topped with first-class performances by some of Almodóvar’s regulars, Cruz, Lluis Homar and Blanca Portillo. But unlike “All About My Mother” and “Volver,” “Broken Embraces” has one too many holes.
Set in present-day Madrid, Mateo Blanco (Homar) is a filmmaker who lost his sight in a car accident 14 years ago. No longer able to direct, he abandons life as Mateo Blanco and resigns to living under his screenwriting pen name, Harry Caine. One day, after shagging a hot blonde who helped him cross the street, Harry hears the name of Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez).
He flashes back to his filmmaking days, when Ernesto produced his film “Chicas y Maletas” (“Girls and Suitcases”), a reference to Almodóvar’s 1988 film “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.”
While making his movie, Mateo falls in love with the lead actress, Lena (Cruz), who also happens to be Ernesto’s mistress. The two rendezvous at the island of Lanzarote where Mateo eventually loses Lena and his sight.
“Broken Embraces” is marked by Almodóvar’s use of intricate narratives and melodrama. A romance turned tragedy, “Broken Embraces” stays within the realm of desire, passion and secrecy that Almodóvar is known for.
But when the film starts to venture into the lives of others such as Judit (Portillo), Harry’s personal assistant and her son, Almodóvar opens the door to a whole different story that perhaps needs a movie of its own.
The subplots are endless and the connections, minimal. The stories Almodóvar includes in “Broken Embraces” aren’t so favorable of the film, but the performances of this ensemble are aces.
Cruz does a great job in portraying the damsel in distress. Homar also gives a solid performance as both Mateo and Harry. When he’s sharing the screen with Cruz, the essence of lust is alive and present.
The chemistry between the two is absolutely believable and phenomenal. His act as a blind man is just as believable.
Even with the high level of passionate performances, “Broken Embraces” doesn’t live up to Almodóvar’s best work. It’s a mixture of smart and creative ideas, but the ideas fall short in the developing process. The film eventually loses itself.
“Broken Embraces” is part of the better half of films this year, but when the director who gave us “Volver” and “All About My Mother” gives us more of the sameplotline, it’s time for a different story. But the amazing acting still makes for an enjoyable film.
Fans of Almodóvar will probably enjoy “Broken Embraces.”
“Broken Embraces” hits theaters Nov. 20.