Broken Embraces has everything that an Almodovar fan could hope for. It is a story about filmmaking that celebrates the triumphs and tragedies of storytelling: multi-stranded narratives unfold within other stories; seemingly unrelated characters are slowly revealed to be linked by deep secrets, and all the while Almodovar’s camera prowls with Hitchcockian precision, lapping up the beautifully designed sets and the equally beautiful performances of the cast (Lluis Homar and Penelope Cruz in particular). For all of its pleasures though, Broken Embraces feels too much like Spain’s greatest living director on autopilot. After the career high of Volver, which was so tightly constructed and emotionally resonant, Broken Embraces lacks focus, with perhaps too many storylines spiralling all over the place, and none of them gripping enough to really move an audience.
Make no mistake, a new Almodovar is always going to be essential viewing, and Broken Embraces offers many moments that can sit alongside his best work - a confrontation scene with Cruz mimicking her own image on a screen is stunning. But the overall sensation is as if Almodovar had laid on a delicious spread of sweet desserts, when what I really wanted was the full three courses.