Almodóvar’s latest work is pure melodrama that is luscious in color and style, but is neither comedic, transgressive nor compelling. What remains without any of those elements is a more or less simple story of a love affair, the jealous lover, and regret. While all of those elements have and will continue to be the basis of movies, Broken Embraces doesn’t so much use them for something new, but perfunctorily lays them out in less than compelling twists that end with the final and over the top realization that the character of the young production assistant who assists the character of the director is his son. The noirish elements in the story don’t really add anything, either. The jealous lover is a stock character in noir, but again in Broken Embraces there is nothing memorable about the character: it is what you have to have for these kind of stories. Moreover, one could see the jealousies and deaths coming, because the film is like other noirs. Part of Almodóvar’s problem is he places the story telling amongst the survivors, and though they haven’t completely come to terms with the events, they more or less know them and are at peace with them. This removes the narrative urgency of the story and so when the film ends the characters and audience are left with the feeling, well that was too bad, but oh well life goes on; thus, the resolution, which in many ways happened earlier in the audience’s mind, is stripped of any power it could have. In addition, since Almodóvar had concluded the movie with such a pat ending, he needs to do something in the middle of the movie to shake it up. Unfortunately, he chooses a typical noir-melodrama that while not painful to watch, is one of his lesser works. While I’m not one to say he hasn’t been good since x movie, he has done better work and hopefully he will in the future.
A plot summary is available at Wikipedia (I just don’t have time to write them, myself and why bother when someone else has done it already).