Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces slowly plays out like a soap opera with a slightly noirish tinge. Most of the film tells the backstory of an erstwhile film director (Lluis Homar) who now sticks to writing because of an accident that cost him his eyesight, and the woman with whom he had a passionate affair (Penelope Cruz). That slight noirish tinge is too slight, unfortunately, as the film sometimes traipses into melodrama, and lacks a satisfying or engaging conclusion. That said, the cast delivers the goods, particularly Penelope Cruz, who makes the most of a underwritten female character (a rare miss for Almodovar).
Visually, Almodovar employs an enigmatic colour scheme, often costuming his principles and dressing his sets with selectively-placed but bold reds, drawing attention to singular characters or objects within every scene. Why? Open for interpretation, I guess, but it does make each shot an interesting piece in-and-of-itself, deserving of dissection (which is my euphemism for: “I have no idea what Pedro's going for!”).
Spain has opted not to submit Broken Embraces as their Foreign Language Film candidate, but Almodovar still has a slim shot at an Original Screenplay nomination. But it is a really slim shot. The ones who deserve the most consideration but likely won't get it are production designer Antxon Gomez, costume designer Sonia Grande, and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (whose nod for Brokeback Mountain four years ago suggests that he may actually stand a small chance).
**1/2 out of ****