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Movie Review

Talk To Her

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Directed by Pedro Almovodar, starring Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Rosario Flores, Leonor Watling and Geraldine Chapman.

'All About My Mother' landed Pedro Almovodar a bevy of international awards and world-wide recognition – but there was life before that heartfelt homage to women, very much so. From 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown' to 'Tie me Up, Tie me Down' and 'Live Flesh', Almovodar is a cinematic craftsman. One of the many hallmarks of his work is his unequalled skill in stripping back the layers in human relationships to expose the emotional core. 'Talk To Her' is true to this but this time the focus is on men, and male friendship.

Benigno (Javier Cámara) and Marco (Darío Grandinetti) are strangers who one night find themselves seated at the same table at a dance production. Marco, a travel writer, is moved to tears by the beauty of performance. There is no exchange between the men but Benigno is touched by the moment. Some years later, Marco is involved with Lydia (Rosario Flores), a famous bullfighter who is gored in a fight and ends up in a coma. In the hospital where Lydia lies, a young ballerina called Alicia (Leonor Watling) is also in a coma, cared for by her private nurse Benigno.

Marco mourns for Lydia, whom he knows will never wake and whom he had already lost to another man before the accident. Benigno knew Alicia before her coma when she was unaware of his long-harboured unrequited love. Marco's visits coincide with Benigno's shifts and the men gradually start to interact. The one-sided exchange between coma patient and visitor is contrasted with the blossoming friendship of the two men. Presence and absence do battle and the conversations between Marco and Benigno are as resonant as their wordless relationships with their women.

The burgeoning connection between the two men is a touching and subtle narrative. Benigno's optimism counters Marco's despair, and without realising it, they come to rely heavily on each other. The pull of reactive and pro-active elements continues and Marco struggles with his pain while Benigno’s misguided love for Alicia goes too far. The plot is complex and unpredictable but it never strays far from the gentle sincerity contained in this unlikely friendship.

Once again, master Almovador captures the sheer fragility of human interaction with astonishing clarity. He extracts the essence of an emotional bond and transfers it effortlessly to screen. As ever, he takes risks with subject matter but the centrality of human relationships in his work is never in doubt. A treasure.

Sinéad Gleeson

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