Both a film noir and a candy-colored confection, Pedro Almodóvar's Julieta is one of the most absorbing films he's made in years. It's also, perhaps, one of the saddest. Based on a trio of Alice Munro short stories, Julieta follows the title character (played in middle age by Emma Suárez) as she discovers that her long-lost daughter Antía, now an adult, may have resurfaced. Delving back into her own painful past in order to understand how things went wrong between her and her child, Julieta relates to us how, as a young woman (now played by Adriana Ugarte), she met Antía's fisherman father Xoan (Daniel Grao) and wound up in an odd marriage born of grief, betrayal, passion and resentment.
As so often happens with Almodóvar, the story edges toward both the bizarre and the inevitable. What's important is that Julieta finds herself constantly, over the course of her life, assuming guilt and responsibility for the others around her. Almodóvar moves his characters around like a god (or at least a moralist), but his attention to detail and his fondness for unexpected bits of tenderness give these people shape and dimension.
The men in this tale often leave emotional devastation in their wake, and it's up to the women to assume responsibility. Almodóvar's women find strength in one another, and the film resists easy resolutions. Julieta may move like an answer, but it's not afraid to end as a question.