Talk to Her (Hable con ella) is Almodóvar’s latest tale of sexuality and desire.This time, his customary strong women - a ballerina and bullfighter - play second fiddle, appearing mostly in flashback. They are both in a coma, and it’s their attendant men (Javier Cámara and Darío Grandinetti) that take centre stage.
Neither is what they initially seem. Cámara’s Benigno, who may or may not be mildly retarded, turns out to be a voyeur and stalker. He’s crucial to the film’s most disturbing scene, cleverly paralleled in a graphic-comic recreated silent movie. Against expectations, the striking bullfighter fades from the film and Grandinetti’s jaded Marco becomes an unlikely hero, a straight man supplying tenderness and compassion to the at-sea nurse.
Almodóvar is a curious amalgam of Fellini (visual flair, sexual and societal outcasts) and Bergman (unflinching character studies, frequently of women), but his films are shot through with a humour and style distinctly his own. Talk to Her also has a vein of sadness running through it, as if Almodóvar was depressed at finding no way to fully redeem his anti-hero Benigno.Almodóvar ultimately has no wish to alienate his growing audience. It’s his Fellini showman persona on display but, unlike the Italian, Almodóvar seems to truly empathise with his outcasts.