A luminous Penélope Cruz stars as an actress who sacrifices everything for true love in BROKEN EMBRACES, Academy Award® -winning filmmaker (2003, Best Writing, Original Screenplay, Talk to Her) Pedro Almodóvar's acclaimed tale of sex, secrets and cinema. When her father becomes gravely ill, beautiful Lena (Cruz) consents to a relationship with her boss Ernesto (José Luis Gómez), a very wealthy, much-older man who pays for her father's hospitalization and provides her a lavish lifestyle. But Lena's dream is to act and soon she falls for the director of her first film - a project bankrolled by her husband to keep her near. Upon his discovery of the affair, Ernesto stops at nothing to ruin Lena's happiness.
Pedro Almodóvar continues to reinvent Hollywood's Golden Age for a new era with Broken Embraces. A blind screenwriter in the present day, Mateo Blanco, a.k.a. Harry Caine (Lluís Homar), reminisces about his favorite leading lady to his assistant, Diego (Tamar Novas). In 1992, when Caine met Lena (Penélope Cruz), stockbroker Ernesto (José Luis Gómez) had just made the cash-strapped secretary his mistress. First, Ernesto pays for her mother's medical care; then he supports her dream to act. In the process, Caine casts her in his screwball comedy and falls in love, and a passionate affair begins. Ernesto suspects something is up, so he hires his shifty son, Ernesto Jr. (the off-key Rubén Ochandiano), to film the couple surreptitiously, and a lip reader translates their conversations. Caine's production manager, Judit (Volver's Blanca Portillo), further complicates the scenario. By the end, Caine, whose name serves as a tip of the hat to hard-boiled author James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice), has lost his vision and his girl, and the culprit isn't as obvious as it seems. With Embraces, Almodóvar riffs on Tinseltown classics where greed and lust lead to death. If less successful than Live Flesh, a prior noir, his jigsaw storytelling remains just as riveting and his principal cast rises to the occasion, particularly Cruz, who plays a more passive character than usual and remains, much like Otto Preminger's Laura before her, a mystery that no one, not even the filmmaker, can ever completely solve. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from Broken Embraces (Click for larger image)