Film director Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar of Bad Education) reinvents himself as novelist Harry Caine after an accident, both out of trauma from losing his lover Lena (Penélope Cruz), and to stay in hiding from the men he suspects caused the accident. Millionaire Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez of Goya’s Ghosts), producing Mateo’s film which stars Ernesto’s young wife Lena is one of those men, and his closeted son (Rubén Ochandiano of Che, Biutiful), stalking Mateo and Lena with a videocamera, is the other. Those four plus the always excellent Blanca Portillo (pot-smoking friend in Volver) are the core of the movie, which stays twisty and exciting due to Almodovar’s withholding of major story elements (like the car crash) until the end. As with Volver, it didn’t seem to burst off the screen and declare its excellence, just came off as another solid Almodovar pic. But thinking of those two in hindsight they seem so good I want to watch them again right now. Maybe that’s why the Almodovar movies I’ve seen more than once (All About My Mother, Talk To Her, Women on the Verge) are my favorites… all his work needs to be examined a second time, to appreciate the filmmaking once the shocks of the plot twists have worn off.
Almodóvar is very aware that he is borrowing, and to save us from having to make a list of films and filmmakers he is referring to, we get a later scene of Diego going through Harry’s DVD collection, reading off titles and directors. One thing that struck me in watching the film is that it makes more sense as you watch it than any summary I have seen in the reviews of it. That is Almodóvar’s skill as a screenwriter.
Ernesto’s son (in the present-day scenes calling himself Ray X) comes off as cartoonish (no disrespect to the actor; he’s given a cartoonish role to play). Mateo/Harry is very good as the star of the story, but as usual with Pedro’s films, my eyes are glued to the women: Cruz, Portillo, Lola Dueñas (The Sea Inside, Volver) as a lip-reader employed by Ernesto, and the unforgettable Rossy de Palma in a brief cameo.