Broken Embraces ★★★★½

Demanding—there are multiple layers and plot strands to keep track of—but never overwhelming, very rewarding film, written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Enthralling and unpredictable story. While the characters come across as real people for the most part and are always interesting, the movie fails to establish a solid emotional connection between any of them and the viewer.

The scene in which the blind central character is helped down some outdoor stairs ranks among the most touching moments in "Broken Embraces", as does a later scene that takes place at a beach. At one point, the filmmakers cleverly use a speech synthesizer as a narrator, and having the camera move back and forth between two characters talking to each other in another scene proves to be a successful stylistic choice.

Exquisite cinematography, with mostly bright colors and warm tones. The effective score gives the film an additional dimension without drawing attention to itself.

Great cast. Penélope Cruz delivers a stellar performance as Lena, and she looks fantastic. Lluís Homar’s nuanced portrayal of Mateo Blanco/Harry Caine gives the character depth and makes him charismatic. Also excellent are José Luis Gómez and Tamar Novas as Ernesto Martel and Diego, respectively.