Thursday, November 3, 2011

#444. Talk to Her (2002)

Directed By: Pedro Almodóvar

Starring: Rosario Flores, Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti

Trivia:  The character of Benigno is based on Pedro Almodóvar's close friend Roberto Benigni

Benigno (Javier Cámara) is in love with Alicia (Leonor Watling). He keeps photos of her by his bedside, cuts and washes her hair, manicures her nails, and can't wait to tell her all about his day. Interestingly enough, Benigno has never been formally introduced to Alicia. In fact, she doesn’t even know he’s there. This is one of two such stories in Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her, a film not about the loss of love, but of love that's never gotten off the ground. 

Benigno is a male nurse working at a local hospital in Madrid. For the last four years, he’s been caring for Alicia, a dancer who was struck by a car, and has been in a coma ever since. Benigno has tended to Alicia’s every need since her accident, and has consequently fallen in love with her. Soon, he will take his love to another level, and across a very dangerous line. In contrast to Benigno, Marco (Darío Grandinetti) is a writer who's recently entered a relationship with Lydia (Rosario Flores), Spain’s most popular female bullfighter. Marco is certain Lydia's about to leave him for another man, yet before she can do so, she's gored by a bull during one of her matches. Now in a coma, Lydia is placed in the same hospital as Alicia, and over time, Marco and Benigno become friends. Through each other, they learn what it means to care for a woman who may never care for them back. 

Talk to Her is the exploration of one-sided love, yet despite such a singular viewpoint, we see how deeply it can run. Alicia was no stranger to Benigno even before her accident. Infatuated with her beauty, he would often watch her dance in the studio across the street from his house, but shyness and insecurity prevented him from taking it any further than that. Now, Benigno has Alicia all to himself, and finds he can communicate with her much more freely than he ever could before. Benigno is a complex character, a kind and loving man whose feelings for Alicia, though genuine, are also quite disturbing. After four years, he’s convinced himself that he and Alicia are a couple, certain she would return his affections if only she could. By way of this strange story, Talk to Her challenges our perception of right and wrong, presenting moral dilemmas that are not as cut and dry as they may have once seemed. We grow to like Benigno in spite of his obsessive behavior, and its through him that Talk to Her establishes its dual nature: a heart-felt romance masking a very intense, often troubling psychological drama. 

Though told from a single perspective, Talk to Her is still a love story. Neither Lydia nor Alicia can reciprocate the affection these men feel for them, yet that doesn't prevent either Benigno or Marco from feeling it. In Talk to Her, Almodovar addresses love as a basic human need that must be filled, regardless of whether or not there's anyone on the other side to fill it.

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