09 Sep 19
Upon release, the film garnered a BAFTA and Golden Globe for best foreign film, as well as a screenplay Oscar for Almodovar. Despite fine performances throughout, the screenplay is the star here; what starts as a warm tale of devotion subtly escalates into a tragedy about obsession, isolation and repressed desires.
Although Almodovar has fine form as a director of strong female performances, the story here centres on two men, Benigno and Marco.
Benigno is a competent though not respected nurse, regularly pulling extra shifts and all-nighters to care for the comatose Alicia. He is devoted to her, doing her nails and styling her hair in addition to his duties, seeing her coma only as a temporary setback. Convinced he is gay, his colleagues see no issue with his increasingly tactile style of care.
Marco, a weary travel writer with a haunted past, becomes fascinated by the fearlessness and strength of matador Lydia. The two develop a friendship and later a relationship before it is all cut short by an accident that puts her in the room next door to Alicia.
Here, the two men develop a bond, with both becoming closer to their 'partners' after the coma than they were before. Almodovar utilises both time jumps and flashbacks to fill out some of the details of the two men's motivations. Questions arise and linger; neither man's true feelings ever quite surface, Benigno is caught up in reliving his past while Marco is intent on avoiding it.
The two could learn from each other but instead, Benigno expresses a desire to take his 'relationship' with Alicia to the next level, setting both men on an irreversible path.
Almodovar handles his characters with sensitivity here, weaving multiple threads that seek not to excuse the characters' decisions but to contextualise them, with increasing isolation leading to ever more frantic actions.
Talk To Her is a delicate, intimate portrait of friendship and longing while also a cautionary tale of obsession. By turns both pedestalizing and infantilising the women they desire, both men miss out on the opportunity to truly connect.
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