ⓘ Julieta (film)

Julieta (film)

ⓘ Julieta (film)

Julieta is a 2016 Spanish film written and directed by Pedro Almodovar based on three short stories from the book Runaway by Alice Munro. The film is Almodovars 20th feature and stars Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte as older and younger versions of the films protagonist, Julieta, alongside Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Dario Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner and Rossy de Palma.

The film opened on 8 April 2016 in Spain to generally positive reviews. It made its international debut at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it was selected to compete for the Palme dOr, and was released across the world throughout the remainder of 2016. Julieta has grossed over $22 million worldwide.

It was selected by the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematograficas de España as the Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards, but did not make the shortlist. It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language in addition to receiving 4 nominations for European Film Awards and 7 nominations for Goya Awards.


1. Plot

Julieta lives in Madrid and is about to move to Portugal with her boyfriend Lorenzo. In a chance encounter on the street with her daughter Antias childhood friend Beatriz, she learns that Antia, from whom she has long been estranged, is living in Switzerland and has three children. Overcome by her desire to reestablish contact with Antia, she abandons plans to leave Spain and instead leases an apartment elsewhere in the building in Madrid where she raised Antia, knowing that address is Antias only means of contacting her.

Anticipating word from Antia, and aware that she owes her daughter an explanation of the events that led to their separation, Julieta fills a journal with an account of her life as mother, spouse, and daughter. She begins with the story of meeting Xoan, a fisherman and Antias father. In a flashback, Julieta recounts meeting Xoan on a train, having fled to the restaurant carriage from an older man. He tells her about his life as a fisherman, and his wife who is in a coma. The train stops sharply, having hit the older man, who committed suicide. As Julieta blames herself for his death, Xoan comforts her, and they have sex on the train. Later, at the school at which she works, Julieta receives a letter from Xoan which she takes as an invitation to visit. She learns his wife has recently died and that he is with Ava, a friend. Julieta and Xoan resume their relationship, and she informs him that she is pregnant with his child. Two years later, Julieta and Antia visit Julietas parents. Her mother is ill and apparently suffering from Alzheimers disease, at first not recognising her daughter. Her father is having an affair with the maid, to Julietas chagrin.

While an older Antia is at a summer camp, Xoan and Julieta argue over his occasional dalliances with Ava, prompted by the housekeeper. Julieta storms out to walk and Xoan goes fishing despite the weather. A storm rolls in and, as Julieta watches the news in panic, Xoans boat capsizes and is killed. His body is recovered, and she must identify it, which she does from a tattoo that symbolized Xoans love for her and Antia, before Xoan can be cremated. Together with Ava she gives ashes out over the sea, at a cove in the rocks. Rather than call her back for the cremation, Julieta has left Antia at camp where she has become inseparable with a girl from a wealthy family named Beatriz, who invite Antia to leave camp a day early and spend some time with them in Madrid. Julieta then travels to Madrid, to break the news of Xoans death to her daughter, and rents a flat there. They remain in Madrid, each doing their own thing but without sharing their respective lives, loves and sorrows. At the age of 18, Antia embarks on a spiritual retreat and announces that she will be incommunicado for three months.

When Julieta drives to the location of the retreat in the Pyrenees three months later, she is informed that her daughter has found enlightenment and has already left: she does not want her location disclosed to her mother. Julieta is racked by the loss and her attempts to find Antia are unsuccessful. The only contact she has is a blank card on her 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays, which she recognizes with a cake that ends up uneaten in the trash. After the latter she has enough, gets enraged and destroys most traces of her daughter in her life, including moving from her apartment to escape Antias memory. Years later she visits Ava, who has multiple sclerosis and is dying. Ava tells her that Antia knew about the argument that precipitated Xoans death and blamed Julieta and Ava, and that she had ultimately internalized guilt about this because she was away at camp at the time. First in the hospital and then at Avas funeral, Julieta meets Lorenzo who has had an affair with Ava and has written a book about Avas art. For some time the two embark on a happy relationship, which distracts Julieta from her loss. She tells him nothing of Antia and he respects that she has some secrets in her life.

Back in the present, Lorenzo has gone to Portugal and Julietas mental state is deteriorating as she obsessively visits places she used to go with her daughter. Beatriz happens to recognize her as the two watch young girls play basketball, and reveals she and Antia had a lesbian relationship. The spiritual retreat may have made Antia ashamed of it, and caused her to cut Beatriz out of her life just as she had done with Julieta.

Julieta continues to deteriorate, walking through the city in a dreamlike state. She recognizes Lorenzo, who has just returned from Portugal, on the other side of the street and begins to walk toward him. Immediately she is hit by a car and collapses in the street, where Lorenzo helps her to get to the hospital. Once she has come to, perhaps from anesthesia, he recovers items from her flat include her notes to Antia, which he does not read, and a letter from Antia. Antia speaks of the death of her then 9-year old son a few years prior, which has deeply affected her and allowed her to understand how Julieta must have felt when she left without leaving word, and must still feel now. This time she has included a return address, which Julieta interprets as an invitation to visit. Lorenzo and Julieta drive to Switzerland and Julieta resolves not to demand an explanation, simply wishing to be with her daughter.


2.1. Production Development

Julieta marked Almodovars 20th feature film. The film was inspired by "Chance", "Soon" and "Silence", three short stories, from the book Runaway 2004 by Nobel Prize winning author Alice Munro, from whom Almodovar bought the film rights in 2009. He later said he specifically asked for the rights due to the pivotal scenes that take place on a train: "There is something incredibly passionate about them", he said. "A woman, on a train, and its very cinematographic". The director admitted that he had not been completely faithful to the source material, but noted the significance of Munros depiction of family relationships and the links between women, which he believed an important part of his adaptation. It is Almodovars third film to be based on a foreign-language text, after Live Flesh 1997 and The Skin I Live In 2011. He first titled the film Silencio English: Silence, based on the title of one of the short stories, but changed it to Julieta in post-production to avoid confusion with Martin Scorseses Silence, which was also released in 2016.

Almodovar originally thought Julieta would serve as his English-language film debut, with American actress Meryl Streep in the lead role, playing three versions of the character at 20, 40 and 60 years old. He met with Streep, who agreed to the concept, and found locations in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where Munro based her stories. He also searched for locations in the state of New York, but eventually shelved the idea, unhappy at the prospect of filming in either country and uncomfortable with his ability to write and film in English. Years later, members of his production team suggested that the script should be revisited but, this time, setting the film in Spain and making it in Spanish.

Almodovar revealed the films original title, Silencio, in an interview with the Financial Times after attending a preview of the musical of his film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse Theatre, London, in January 2015. Silence is "the principal element that drives the worst things that happen to the main female protagonist", Almodovar said. He also stated that the film was a return to drama and his "cinema of women", but claimed that the tone was different to that of his other feminine dramas like The Flower of My Secret 1995, All About My Mother 1999 and Volver 2006. He explained that he had finished the script, but was in the process of casting. In March 2015, Rossy de Palma, who frequently appears in Almodovars films, confirmed she had a role in the film, followed by the announcement that Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte were playing the older and younger versions of the films protagonist. On the employment of two actresses, Almodovar later said, "I dont trust the effects of make-up for aging, and its almost impossible for a young woman of 25 to have the presence of someone of 50. It isnt a matter of wrinkles, its something more profound, the passing of time, on the outside and on the inside". Suarez also revealed that using two actresses was an homage to That Obscure Object of Desire 1977 by Luis Buñuel, in which two actresses also play the same character at different stages in life. El Deseo revealed more casting in March 2015.

In preparation for the film, Almodovar encouraged Suarez and Ugarte to read The Year of Magical Thinking 2005, a book on mourning by U.S. author Joan Didion, and Other Lives but Mine 2009 by French writer Emmanuel Carrere for inspiration. Almodovar also recommended Suarez watch Elevator to the Gallows 1958 by Louis Malle and The Hours 2002 by Stephen Daldry, and that she contemplate Lucian Freuds paintings. Suarez also watched Almodovars complete filmography and stayed alone in Madrid to prepare for the character. "Its a very tough character. For me it meant going into a pit of darkness where there is abandonment, loneliness and fear", Suarez stated in an interview. She also revealed that the two actresses worked on their versions of the character independently; the couple were only together on set for the train sequence.


2.2. Production Filming

On working with the pair, Almodovar said: "I battled a lot with the actresses tears, against the physical need to cry. It is a very expressive battle. It wasnt out of reservedness, but because I didnt want tears, what I wanted was dejection – the thing that stays inside after years and years of pain. I adore melodrama, its a noble genre, a truly great genre, but I was very clear that I didnt want anything epic, I wanted something else. Simply put, this had to be a very dry, tearless film". In an interview with the BBC, Almodovar said there were comic situations in rehearsals, but he wanted to set the humour aside: "I wanted something more intense; I wanted something cleaner to make sure the message got through". Almodovar stated that he wanted to create something more austere and restrained than his previous films; he also reflected on the physical pain he had experienced in the past years which he believed to have inspired him to create a piece about solitude.

Julieta went into production in April 2015 with Jean-Claude Larrieu as cinematographer and frequent collaborator Alberto Iglesias composing the films score. Sonia Grande, another frequent collaborator, was responsible for the films costume design. Filming was due to begin on 6 May 2015, but actually commenced on 18 May 2015; Madrid, the Galician Rias Altas, La Sierra in Huelva, the Pyrenees in Aragon, Panticosa and Fanlo were among the locations used for filming. Almodovar later stated that he wanted to use the deserted mountainous areas to mark a significant distance from the city of Madrid to emphasize how the characters change their outlooks on life according to the environment they are in. In search of locations, Almodovar collaborated with the Huesca Film Office. Photographs from the set began to appear online towards the end of May 2015. Filming was completed on 7 August 2015.


3. Release

El Deseo first unveiled a teaser poster for the film online in July 2015, followed by a teaser trailer and a new teaser poster in January 2016. The films international trailer and official poster were released online the following month.

Julieta premiered at La Sala Phenomena Experience in Barcelona on 4 April 2016. It was also due to be screened at the Yelmo Ideal cinema in Madrid on 6 April 2016, where Almodovar had planned to deliver interviews and have photos. However, due to the controversy surrounding his name being listed in the Panama Papers earlier that week, he cancelled the event and all other press engagements for the film in the run up to its release. Julieta was released to the public on 8 April 2016 in Spain; a special screening was held in Almodovars hometown, Calzada de Calatrava, on the day to celebrate the release of his 20th feature film. Though he did not attend, he recorded a special video message which was broadcast to the audience watching.

After much speculation, the film made its international debut at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it was in competition for the Palme dOr, Almodovars fifth film to be selected for the competition. It was then released on 18 May in France, 26 May in Italy, and 23 June in Brazil. In June, Julieta also screened out-of-competition at the Sydney Film Festival, followed by its opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival and the Queensland Film Festival in July. It was also released on 8 July in Mexico. In the UK, the film was released by Pathe and distributed by their distribution partner 20th Century Fox, and had received its premiere at Somerset House, London, in a special event in which Almodovar made an appearance, followed by its general release to the British public on 26 August. In the USA, Julieta debuted at the New York Film Festival, before being released to the American public on 21 December 2016, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, their ninth Almodovar picture, with its sales handled by FilmNation Entertainment, their third Almodovar film. In Canada, it was shown at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.


4.1. Reception Critical response

Reviews for Julieta were generally favourable and much less critical than those Almodovar received for his previous film Im So Excited 2013. Rotten Tomatoes gave Julieta a score of 83% based on reviews from 182 critics; Metacritic gave the film a weighted score of 73/100, based on 31 critiques, which indicates "generally favourable reviews".

The film drew praise from critics in Spain, including La Vanguardia, who compared Julieta to the female-centric films of George Cukor and Kenji Mizoguchi while noting hints of Alfred Hitchcock in Almodovars screenplay. Alfonso Rivera of Cineuropa additionally observed influences of Ingmar Bergman, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Douglas Sirk in Almodovars style. Vicente Molina Fox from El Pais believed Almodovar had achieved the best script of his career with Julieta, while Luis Martinez of El Mundo, despite finding issues with the narrative, thought Julieta was Almodovars "most difficult and most pure film". The Spanish edition of Vanity Fair also called it "the most Almodovar film by Almodovar". Quim Casas from El Periodico de Catalunya said that Almodovar had reinvented melodrama: "Prodigious in dramatic tone, Julieta is very Almodovarian but at the same time different to other works by the auteur". ABC gave the film a mixed review; praising Suarez in the lead role but criticising narrative choices. Carlos Boyero, the "sworn critical enemy" of Almodovar, penned an extremely negative review in El Pais, feeling distanced and unable to identify with the characters because of the films style and cinematography. Boyero stated that "the film conveys nothing to me, either emotionally or artistically". El Confidencial also responded negatively, calling the film "a barren drama", "unsubtle" and "self-indulgent".

Julieta had a warm reception at the Cannes Film Festival, which was followed by extremely positive reactions from French film critics. According to AlloCine, based on 29 reviews from critics in France, Julieta received an average rating of 4.4 out of 5, making it one of the best reviewed films released in France in 2016. Numerous sources such as Cahiers du Cinema, Le Monde, Positif, Ouest-France and Le Parisien gave the film their highest five-star rating. Le Monde called it "a beautiful film of very pure sadness" and La Croix who thought the theme of guilt was a welcome new addition to Almodovars work, calling Julieta "a beautiful and intense film". LExpress thought Almodovar had returned to the top of his game with Julieta, calling it "a work constantly on the edge, never overwhelmed by its own emotions, deliberately cold has long mastered, which sketch psychological detail more acutely than Julietas methodically orchestrated and rather sluggish story". Twitch Film felt the mellowness of Munros work did not adapt well to Almodovars melodramatic style, concluding that "Almodovar seems content to let his past strengths wither in favour of banality". Indiewire also thought the director played too safe and called Julieta his most conventional film. The Hollywood Reporter felt the film would satisfy fans of Almodovar, but was too decorous in comparison to his previous films: "a politeness thats quite unlike the lusty vulgarity of the past. Some of us may not be sure we like it". However, TheWrap thought that "a subdued Almodovar is still a far sight weirder and more intriguing than most directors", adding that the film is "a worthy part of a canon in which decorous should never be confused with dull".


4.2. Reception Box office

In Spain, the film opened in 203 cinemas. Over its opening weekend, it attracted 79.523 spectators, making €585.989. This was reportedly Almodovars worst opening at the Spanish box office in 20 years. Agustin Almodovar later admitted that the film being a drama and not a comedy, made it harder to sell to a mainstream audience, coupled with the Panama Papers scandal which provoked Almodovar to halt all press engagements in the run up to Julieta s release were the two main factors in the disappointing box office results. In its first week, Julieta made €1.180.017 in Spain, making it the fifth-highest grossing film of the week, but was overshadowed by films like The Jungle Book and Kiki, el amor se hace. It stayed at number 5 the following week, but the films earnings dropped by 43%, making €348.515. Box office takings then continued to fall; earning €220.000 in its third week, then €119.131 in its fourth, before falling out of the top 10 to number 17 in its fifth week. The film made a total of $2.4 million in Spain.

Julieta became the second-highest grossing film of the week when it opened in France, and grossed over $4.9 million in the country. In Italy, it debuted as the fourth-highest grossing film of the week and went on to accumulate $2.4 million. In the UK, Julieta made £1.1 million $1.5 million in its first three weeks, becoming the highest-grossing non-Bollywood foreign language film at the UK box office since 2012 comedy The Intouchables. Overall, it made $1.7 million in the UK. In the USA, it has made $839.000. Worldwide, the film has grossed a total of $22.3 million at the box office.


4.3. Reception Accolades

Before its release, the Los Angeles Times predicted that the film could be an Academy Award contender. In September 2016, the Spanish Academy selected Julieta as the Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards. In December 2016, Julieta was eliminated from the competition and did not make the shortlist.

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