Talk to Her (Hable con elle) is a Spanish film from 2002, written and directed by Pedro Almodovar. It won Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, and Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. It is subtitled, and is rated R for nudity, sexual content and some language.
This is one of the most interesting films I have ever seen. Benigno (Javier Camara) is a nurse working in a private clinic. He is one of two caregivers for the beautiful Alicia (Leonor Watling) who is in a coma following an accident. It has been four years for Alicia in this state, when Lydia (Rosario Flores), a bullfighter, is brought in after being gored. She is in a vegetative state, and her boyfriend Marco (Dario Grandinetti) is distraught at her condition. A friendship develops between Benigno and Marco, the kind nurse attempting to lift Marco’s spirits and get him to just talk to Lydia, despite her comatose state.
Alicia was a ballerina prior to her accident: active, loving travel and cinema, and Benigno lives her life for her by going to dance performances, watching films, doing these things she loved, in a way doing them for her. He tells her all about these experiences in the quiet hours of caring for her.
The dance sequences in the film are fascinating, and the esteemed ballet dancer and choreographer, Pina Bausch, dances in one of them. Alicia’s ballet teacher Katarina (Geraldine Chaplin) visits her often at the clinic. (Geraldine Chaplin is the daughter of Charlie and Oona Chaplin, and the granddaughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. She has had a long career in film, beginning early on with a role in Doctor Zhivago.)
Javier Camara plays Benigno with such innocence and openness, you can’t help but feel for him. I saw another film he was in, Living is Easy With Eyes Closed, reviewed on this site (enter the film’s name on the blog search feature above, and it will take you to my review). This was an excellent film also from Spain I recommend to you.
Pedro Almodovar is known for innovative, unusual film subjects. Talk to Her is no exception, filled with metaphor and symbolism in the way he writes and films his story. The story of Benigno, Alicia, Lydia and Marco unfolds as it moves forward, and also informs us of how these relationships were initiated by taking us into their past. Past and present gives the story is a sort of timelessness. The cinematography is first rate as well.
Will Lydia and Alicia awaken from their comas? How will Benigno and Marco cope with them lying so still in a coma? Almodovar has written a beautiful screenplay about being human, about art and expression, love and relationships, selflessness, and hope.
If you like art cinema and foreign film, you will enjoy Talk to Her. I didn’t care for the bullfighting, but what was shown was minimal and not like it would have been depicted in a more graphic film.