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Talk to Her Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

It was only when I first sat down to write about Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her (Hable con ella) that the complexities of the film began to obfuscate any sort of immediate, rational approximation of what it was like to watch the movie. It is a deceivingly simple work, framed by a childhood fascination in comas but underscored by a very mature exploration of ethics; specifically, those of science and love.

Talk to Her opens with a rising curtain and an interpretive dance; in the audience sit two male strangers-journalist Marco (Darío Grandinetti) and nurse Benigno (Javier Cámara). Marco will fall in love with peppy female bullfighter Lydia (Rosario Flores), while Benigno is already in love with the comatose Alicia (Leonor Watling). When Lydia falls into a coma after an accident, Marco fatefully comes into contact with Benigno again.

This is one of those genre-bending movies whose tone invariably resembles a thriller, parody, drama, romance, or comedy; as that former genus would suggest, giving away some of Talk to Her’s plot developments would ruin the jaw-dropping impact the film often carries. It is safe to say that the two men both love women they hardly know, but in markedly different manners.

Like past Almodôvar films, this one is centered around men who gradually come to grips with their feelings, which, in the Almodóvar sense, usually deal with their feminity. What makes Talk to Her so unique is the relative absence of an open feminine voice-Alicia and Lydia both spend the majority of the film unconscious, in an existential paradox. They are alive, and that is why Benigno practices the titular action. Yet Marco understands that they can’t talk back, at least not in any sort of tangible manner, and this philosophical difference splits the film.

Nowhere is each man’s understanding of love better presented than in the brilliant, hauntingly bizarre Almodóvar-directed silent film that materializes in the film’s final third. What at first seems to be a funny little scenario quickly becomes a disturbing parable that, despite its histrionics and self-aware existence, is one of the most unforgettable scenes in recent memory.

Talk to Her is beautifully shot and executed, particularly the emergence of character cards from the center of the screen that divvy up the action. As Benigno, Cámara is particularly affecting; his suffering is nothing short of profound. As his counter, Grandinetti turns in a subtly powerful performance, playing well off the film’s other casting coups, particularly the beautiful Watling and Geraldine Chaplin as her dance teacher.

Through the emotional entanglements, accusations, and declarations comes a densely layered tale of a relatively simple situation. This is what initially made Talk to Her so difficult to examine, but ultimately it’s not the larger issues which construct the film-it’s the subtleties, those beautiful little meetings, eye contacts, handshakes that Almodóvar presents so seamlessly, so perfectly. As the film ends with an ideal smile, it’s impossible to not be overwhelmed with what just came at you. Like Marco, you’re not sure what to make of it, but what you are certain of is the present-and all you hope for is in the future.

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