MUJERES AL BORDE DE UN ATAQUE DE NERVIOS || 1988, Spain || Comedy || Directed by – Pedro Almodovar / Written by – Pedro Almodovar / Produced by – Augustin Almodovar, Pedro Almodovar, Antonio Llorens / Music by – Bernardo Bonezzi / Cinematography by – José Luis Alcaine / Editing by – José Salcedo / Starring – Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano, Rossy de Palma, Maria Barrando / Running time: 89 mins.
Out of all of the early works directed by Pedro Almodovar, it is arguably Women on the Verge of a Nervour Breakdown that is most admired and looked upon as a landmark in the Spanish director’s career, not least of all because of its geuine and respectful feminist outlook and vividly humorous take on an intricately soap operatic to the point of absurd narrative. The film revolves around a woman whose lover leaves her and disappers without a trace. Desperately seeking confrontation and unable to recover from her heartbreak, she tries to commit suicide, but ends up confronting the man’s son and his girlfriend who are looking to buy her flat and his wife over the course of a frantic afternoon. On top of that, her friend shows up at her door, seeking help, confused and scared by the jam she has found herself in due to her own boyfriend’s criminal activities.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is an exciting satire on the drama of everyday life, with a style that offers a great justaposition of kitchen sink drama and gives in to glorious colourfulness through the eccentricity of its characters but also through its excellent rapid fire dialogue. This is by all means a definitive work of Almodovar, who somehow manages to balance the various elements of the narrative with great taste. In his task, he is aided by some excellent performances by the cast, that look like they are having fun in this mostly theatrical set up.
A young Antonio Banderas provides the only reasonable male voice in a film that is largely driven by a unique feminist sensitiveness and perspective. But Carmen Maura, heading the cast as the woman who was abruptly abandoned, holds everything together with a great turn, often exhibiting important charisma as a comedienne and a dramatist all at once, and her emotions carrying the film’s emotional arch forward. – 5/5