Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar has given Adriana Ugarte, the central actress of his new film Julieta, his current hairstyle—puffy and white like a seeding dandelion. It’s as if he’s trying to place himself into this narrative he so admires—as the youngest, hottest Julieta, who gets to have sex on a moving train.
Julieta is based on three stories from Canadian author Alice Munro’s 2004 short story collection Runaway. They follow a young classics professor through various dramatic episodes of her life: a romantic meeting on a train, introducing her young daughter to her parents, and searching for her child when she goes missing. Munro’s tone in her stories is unflaggingly Canadian—despite their difficult predicaments, her characters eat up their emotions like piping hot poutine while staring stonily at the sea. So Canadian!
Knowing this—and also knowing of Amodóvar’s admiration for Munro, as her books have appeared in his previous films—I was excited to see the hot, gender-bending lava of Almodóvar’s filmmaking meet the cold, austere, ocean-like resilience of Munro and her refusal to let her characters get worked up. HISSSS! I was not disappointed. Julieta is great. It’s still very Almodóvar (The sets are RED and people are FIGHTING!), but it’s pared back in a way that recalls 2006’s restrained Volver more than 2011’s bonkers The Skin I Live In. In Julieta, Almodóvar focuses on the tremendous loss he’s decided Julieta must feel, as opposed to Munro’s insistent, stony resilience. Then he just straight-up changes the ending. Almodóvar’s Julieta is like a cover; a rock or emo version of Munro’s cool, classic folk song.