Volver received a good deal of acclaim when it came out, including the entire female cast receiving an ensemble prize at Cannes and Penelope Cruz being nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. I must admit to being disappointed with Volver. I fail to connect with most of the intimate womens stories that Pedro Almodovar seems to want to tell these days. His films are technically fine well scripted, well performed but they seem like closeted chamber dramas that are not pitched to anybody other than fans of arthouse cinema. I cannot help but think that Volver would have worked far better as an old style Pedro Almodovar film the story about Penelope Cruz trying to hide her husbands body but ending making a success as a caterer and the return of Carmen Mauras ghost mother would have been hilarious as one of Almodovars madcap comedy of outrages. Here however the idea suffers by being played out seriously.
Certainly, all the cast give solid performances, especially Carmen Maura. Given the Cannes ensemble award, I kept expecting them to open up into something earth-shattering but this never happens. All of this award-heavy attention left one anticipating a series of career-defining performances. The fantasy element comes in the character of Carmen Mauras mother who returns to hide with daughter Lola Dueñas and is taken for a ghost. In a surprise twist ending, Pedro Almodovar opts for a mundane resolution but she is played as being a ghost throughout the rest of the story. (This is only the second time that Almodovar has ventured into fantastical material, having previously made Matador about a necrophiliac serial killer and clairvoyant bullfighter). The twist ending is certainly slightly improbable in its contrivations, although Almodovar does bring it all together for a nice resolution one where we see in his middle-age (Almodovar was 57 when he made Volver) that Almodovar has become a sentimentalist of all things. Volver is a nice film that works well in its eventual unfolding turns but also one that disappoints in that it never provides the big dramatic fireworks that one expects of it.
The title incidentally has nothing to do with female genitalia but is rather a Spanish word that means returning or coming back.
In genre material, Pedro Almodovar has also produced Alex de la Iglesias gonzo science-fiction film Accion Mutante (1993), a Spanish version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with My Name is Shadow (1996) and Guillermo del Toros The Devils Backbone (2001).