Talk to Her (2002)
Here is a film about women in comas and the men who love them. However, as the story unfolds, we learn that each man has a radically different perspective on love, yet they are able to bond with one another, maintain a friendship, and offer forgiveness. Talk to Her is a rare and unconventional picture that is not as much concerned with plot as it is with offering us three-dimensional characters, though the plot holds up its end as well--it just takes a little while to really heat up.
Marco (Dario Grandinetti), a freelance writer, has begun dating, and growing to love, a famous bullfighter named Lydia Gonzalez (Rosario Flores), who, before Marco came along, had a bad breakup with another bullfighter. Lydia ends up in a coma when she is brutally gored by a bull, and is taken to a clinic where Marco is at her bedside relentlessly. He meets a nurse at the clinic named Benigno (Javier Camara), who is caring for another coma patient, Alicia (Leonor Watling). Benigno seems to have a good relationship with Alicia, talking to her constantly as if she were able to hear him somehow, and volunteering to stay nights with her when the other nurse is unable to because of family problems.
Director Pedro Almodovar jumps around in time to give us some backstory on these individuals, and we learn that prior to the bullfight, Lydia, looking a bit upset, had told Marco that she needed to talk with him. How ironic now that the only communication they could possibly have would come from Marco speaking to her seemingly lifeless body. Benigno, ever cheerful, encourages Marco to talk to her, but Marco--an emotional man who is moved to tears by ballet and music--is hesitant to even touch Lydia. As we learn more information about Benigno and Alicia, their relationship gets creepier, and Marco's relationship with Lydia may not be all that it seemed to be either.
Talk to Her did not tell the story that I was expecting based on the outset of the film, but it is all the richer for it, because I was expecting a conventional picture where the one who is not in the coma learns life lessons from the inanimate partner somehow. But Almodovar is smarter than that, and gives us instead a film with a literary style, peeling back the layers of his characters gradually throughout the film until we see that the master plan was not to create a sappy romance, but instead to explore the depths of humanity, and show the different, and sometimes controversial, ways in which love manifests itself. The main revelation is so brutal that we see it coming a mile away but hope and pray that it's not true.
This is my first experience with a film by Almodovar, and rest assured that I will seek out his other films, as I thoroughly enjoyed Talk to Her. He tells a story the way it should be told, by letting the characters dictate what happens to them, instead of using them as pawns within the constraints of a plot. This is a film that is artistic without being flashy or showy, but rather by simply investing in its characters' emotions, and when we the audience can see that the filmmaker has done so, it is very easy for us to be brought into that world as well.
May 18, 2005