To ReturnRomance, Drama

Learners’ Notes

  • Not as racy as Pedro Almodóvar’s (the director) earlier works yet not entirely suitable for minors
  • Entirely set in Spain making it a good movie for those wanting to develop an ear for Peninsular Spanish
  • Interesting exposure to the culture and life of the typical middle-class family in Spain, both today as well as in the past
  • Rapid speech making it difficult to follow without subtitles but relatively simplistic vocabulary making it somewhat accessible to beginner learners
  • Liberal use of terms of endearment, good for picking up fun mushy expressions
  • Plenty of references to death and family, making it good for those seeking to build some vocabulary around those themes
brief synopsis

The story is set in contemporary Madrid. Raimunda is an attractive and enterprising young mum with an unemployed husband, Paco, and an adolescent daughter. The finances of the family are very tight so Raimunda has various jobs. She is a very strong woman, a born fighter, but sometimes very emotionally fragile. Since her childhood she has kept a terrible secret regarding her father, which is revealed during the film. Her sister Sole is a littler older. Her husband left her and since then has lived on her own.

One Sunday in spring, Sole calls Raimunda to tell her that aunt has died. Raimunda adored her aunt but cannot go to the funeral because just moments before receiving her sister’s call, Raimunda finds her husband dead in the kitchen with a knife lodged in his chest. Her daughter confesses that she has killed him because her father, whilst drunk, has persistently sexually harassed her.

Reluctantly Sole travels to the village alone for the funeral of her aunt. Amongst the women who attend the funeral she hears rumours that her mother – who died in a fire with her father years ago – had returned from the other world in order to care for her infirm aunt Paula in her remaining years. The neighbours talk openly of the ghost of her mother. When Sole returns to Madrid, she hears a noise coming from the trunk while she parks her car. She opens it and finds the ghost of her mother, surrounded by bags. But is this figure really a ghost or are further secrets to be revealed?

Regarding the other sister, Raimunda lies to Sole about the death of Paco, saying that her husband has left her with no intention of returning. In reality, she has buried the body.

The untenable becomes the day-to-day, as the two sisters embark on an escape to the future, surviving tense situations, melodramas, the comical and the emotional. Both women survive through pure nerve and lies. ‘Volver’ is a story of survival. All the characters fight to survive, including the ‘ghost’ of the mother.