This is not to say that Broken Embraces is an awful film... it is just a disappointing one. It plays more like comfort food than it does a truly satisfying meal. It is as if Almodóvar got so caught up in making a Hitchcockian film that he opted to just recycle his already well used plot devices to save time. All the classic Pedro Almodóvar themes (e.g. secrets, paternity issues, forbidden love, murder, etc.) are on display but they never excite the way you would expect it them to. The bulk of the film centers on a mystery fourteen years in the past. Unfortunately the mystery is one that will easily be solved by anyone who is familiar with Almodóvar’s previous works. It also does not help that he lays on the melodrama extra thick for this outing.
Granted even an average Almodóvar film, such as this, is still more engaging than the best works of lesser directors. The cast try their best to raise the film to the levels we have come to expect from Pedro. Penélope Cruz and Ruében Ochandiano are especially good in their respective roles. Yet even the performances can only go so far. Broken Embraces is a serviceable trip down memory lane for Almodóvar lovers but it hardly rivals his best works (i.e. All About My Mother, Volver, Talk to Her). If anything the film left made me want to revisit Almodóvar’s earlier films, such as Woman on the Verge, Live Flesh, Matador, etc., which were far more satisfying than this film.