Review: Talk to Her

Talk to Her (2002)
Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Rosario Flores. Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Spanish with English subtitles.

Here’s something you don’t see every day.

Benigno is a nurse who never leaves Alicia’s side, talking to her, sharing details of the dance performance he saw the other night, giving Alicia massages, and washing her hair. He’s been at it a while, tending to her while she’s in a coma, so he is quick to befriend a new arrival, to give (usually unheeded) advice to someone in a similar situation.

Marco is a writer who meets a famed woman bull fighter. He’s intrigued by her story, and although she is at first not at all interested in speaking with him for a profile, he does something heroic and they become lovers.

If I’ve learned one lesson in my years of watching admittedly not that many western European films but probably more than most of my countrypeople, it’s that love is justification enough for just about anything. And if you’re watching a Spanish movie where the love is established early in the film, the anything is soon to show up, and it’s probably unlike any anything you’ve already seen, even in other films by the same director.

Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her seems to challenge my assumptions. Does love justify anything? Well how about this, and how about this? I’m being vague for a good reason, so I’ll say no more about the story and add that the performances of the two leads, Javier Cámara and Darío Grandinetti, just excellent, especially Grandinetti who plays Marco. His stoic coolness given to tears at moments of great beauty are the sexiest thing in this movie, and there are nude women in this film.

There is a moment where Marco loses his cool, yelling at Benigno not to do something Benigno says he wants to do, and to see all of Marco’s passion come out this way in this moment is admirable. It makes you kind of fall in love with him except that you’re already in love with him.

As in Volver, there are a couple of moments that make me wonder if Almodóvar has an eccentric alter ego who takes over the controls on the film for a day or two here and there. There is a scene from a black-and-white silent film whose imagery made me say (aloud, when nobody else was around), “Why is he showing us this?” and soon after a close-up shot of a lava lamp that made me say, “Are you even serious?”

But this is a movie about love, and I almost love this movie, so I’m going to forgive Almodóvar those moments, because a director who shows you stuff you’ve never seen and makes you go “Wow” is going to also make you say “What the heck?” once in a while. Also because love is ample justification for just about anything.


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