Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
Written by:Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez, Ruben Ochandiano, Tamar Novas
Released: December 17, 2009
Grade: B+

With Avatar expected to dominate ticket sales this weekend, most studios are laying low in the lead up to Christmas.  The only other film being released on Thursday is Broken Embraces, the latest from acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.  He has two Oscars on his mantelpiece at home and his most popular works include All About My Mother and Talk To Her.

I have an appreciation for the way in Almodovar develops his characters.  Things are rare black and white – there’s plenty of grey to keep things interesting.  Broken Embraces is no exception.  It begins with a blind man named Harry (Homar) befriending a young lady on the street.  She comes back to his house and they make love on the couch.  Should I see Harry as a sleazy womaniser?  Or should I feel sorry for Harry given his disability?  Things are grey already.

Harry hasn’t always been blind.  He was once a screenwriter and a filmmaker.  The story behind his condition will be revealed in flashbacks.  Fourteen years earlier, he was directing a movie with a young starlet named Lena (Cruz).  Harry was smitten with Lena from the first time he laid eyes on her.  Unfortunately, she was already taken by the film’s producer.  Ernesto Martel (Gomez) was an older, wealthier man who could give Lena whatever she wanted.

Pedro Almodovar has made better films than this.  I liked it generally but wasn’t blown away as I have been with previous works.  I found the ending somewhat predictable and a few scenes tended to drag out the inevitable.  Of particular annoyance was a character by the name of Ray X (Ochandiano) who is laughable as opposed to sinister.  I don’t think this was Almodovar’s intention.

The film is still worth seeing for its interesting assortment of characters and the difficult situations in which they find themselves.  Many are hiding secrets but which will be revealed?  And to whom?  I’ll leave it with you to figure out whilst I go and watch Avatar for a second time…