Broken Embraces (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/08/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 129 mins

A beautifully shot, impressively acted drama that serves as both a love letter to cinema and a portrait of obsession, but it suffers from poor pacing, an over-indulgent script and a disappointing final act.

What's it all about?
Directed by Pedro Almodovar, Broken Embraces (originally titled Los Abrazos Rotos) stars Penelope Cruz as Lena, the beautiful mistress of wealthy financier Ernesto Martel. When Ernesto bankrolls director Mateo Blanco's (Lluis Homar) latest film, on the condition that Lena stars in it, he is plunged into a fury of jealousy when he suspects Lena of falling for her director.

Fourteen years later (the film is told in flashback), Mateo is blind and working as a screenwriter under the name of Harry Caine, while Lena apparently died, several years previously, in circumstances that Mateo always believed were orchestrated by Ernesto. When Ernesto dies, his gay son Ray X (Ruben Ochandiano) approaches Mateo with a proposition for a screenplay and together they gradually piece together what really happened all those years ago.

The Good
Almodovar has made no secret of his cinephilia over the years and Broken Embraces is, first and foremost, a love letter to cinema and filmmaking. To that end, the script is awash with allusions and references to classic movies, while die-hard Almodovar fans will also spot that the eventual film within a film (called Girls and Suitcases) is in fact a reworking of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (though, arguably, this backfires).

Almodovar is also celebrated as a great director of women and it's hard not to see why – Penelope Cruz is terrific as Lena and Almodovar's camera clearly adores her; she's as stunningly beautiful here as she was in Almodovar's Volver and that's really saying something. In addition, there's strong support from Homar and the set design and costumes are exquisite throughout.

The Bad
That said, the self-indulgent script gets bogged down in exposition, the pacing flags horribly in the middle section and the climax, surprisingly, is underwhelming and lacks dramatic impact.

Worth seeing?
It's fair to say that Broken Embraces isn't one of Almodovar's best films, but it's still something of an interesting failure and remains worth seeing, thanks to its gorgeous cinematography and a luminous performance by Penelope Cruz.

Film Trailer

Broken Embraces (15)
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Content updated: 20/08/2018 15:37

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