What does it mean to have a dead mother come back to life and nurture her daughters and granddaughter again? Well that is in the meaning of the film’s title, Volver, which means to recapture again, in this case, the love that went missing years before.
In Volver, even though the main characters are all women, it’s not necessarily a woman’s film. There are women’s issues discussed, but this is definitely not a chick flick. The movie makes fun of itself, as all Almodóvar films do (see Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother, and Talk to Her).
The movie starts out with the Penélope Cruz character, Raimunda, as well as scores of other women, cleaning graves. It should be known that death is a very important part of people’s lives in La Mancha, Spain, where Almódovar is from. The dead continue to be present in people’s lives, meaning they never really die. When Cruz’s dead mother enters the picture, we learn this soon enough.
Family is also a very important part of life, at least for Raimunda and her folk, which includes a daughter, sister, aunt, and eventually mother. Not only do men not exist for these women, but they simply aren’t important enough for them. We soon learn this when Raimunda’s husband Paco (Antonio de la Torre) tries some hanky panky with her, and she has none of it.
The movie is colorfully filmed, but that’s not what makes it stand out. Cruz’s electrifying performance makes the “dead mother comes back to life” plot seem credible and one wonders why she isn’t used as well in American films. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the mother character, Irene (Carmen Maura), which I did. In fact there’s one terrific scene where Raimunda, who’s unaware that her mother is in her sister’s house, smells Irene’s farts, and Irene can barely control her laughter. When Raimunda and Irene finally do meet, it makes you wish that the afterlife really did exist so that you can make amends with the person you lost too soon.