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flick pick | Talk to Her [ Hable con ella] 2002
Directed + written by: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Rosario Flores
Language: Spanish
Look for it at the video store under: drama, foreign [Spain]
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis In a dark theatre in Madrid, two men, strangers to one another, sit side-by-side watching a modern dance. One man turns and notices that the other has been immersed in the performance, silently shedding tears. The first man is Benigno, a doughy misfit of ambiguous sexuality who works as a nurse in a coma ward; the second man is Marco, a handsome Argentinean journalist who still can't quite get over a woman he broke up with years ago. At work the next day, Benigno tells his pretty patient Alicia about how much he enjoyed the performance, and how the man beside him was moved to the point of tears. Alicia loves dance more than anything in the world, but makes no response: she can't, as a rainy day car accident left her in a coma four years ago, and she's been lying there in the hospital ever since. No matter to Benigno: the past four years have been the happiest of his life, as his status as one of Alicia's two private nurses has allowed him to spend nearly every day with a woman that he had once worshipped from afar, back in the pre-accident days when she would go to the dance studio located across from his apartment. Now he watches over her health and keeps her looking presentable; most of all, he talks to her. It's the talking that gets to Marco when, by a terrible coincidence, his bullfighter girlfriend Lydia falls comatose after being brutally gored, and ends up in the same hospital in which Benigno cares for Alicia. Marco sits dutifully by Lydia's side, day in and day out, and though there's so much he'd like to let her know, he can't get over the futility of trying to converse with a vegetable. So Marco can't talk to Lydia because he hates that she can't talk back, and Benigno talks to Alicia because he has no fear that she might talk back. But when a friendship springs up between Marco and Benigno, the two men find that with each other, at least, they can have real dialogue.

Review Pedro Almodovar's movies have this amazing ability to genuinely surprise me, in a way that feels totally natural rather that too-cleverly manipulated. I never quite know where his characters are going with their weird, complicated lives, but each character is so perfectly, vividly realized that I believe in them wholeheartedly, even when they're more than a little off their nut. Their behaviors make sense for them, even when they don't make any sense to me; as a result, I always feel like I leave an Almodovar movie with just a little better understanding of what it might be like to live in the heads of folks who are wildly different from me. Even when someone does something fairly reprehensible, Almodovar's gotten me too involved with the character to be able to really hate them. I feel unsettled, and icky, and a little sad -- and ultimately, these are far more interesting reactions than simple pure loathing. By refusing to judge anyone in black-and-white good/bad terms, Almodovar always leaves open the possibility that redemption is possible, and that one can find it in one's heart to forgive almost anything. And there's something kind of beautiful and generous about that. Talk to Me feels a whole lot weightier and fair bit more sad than the raucously outré, somewhat absurdist-comedic films that the director made earlier in his career. And yeah, it features main characters that aren't wholly sympathetic, a rape, and a suicide. But the beauty of Almodovar's writing and directing is that he can do all that, and still create a film that leaves me feeling kind of optimistic about humanity, the world, our future.
—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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