This article is about the film. For the song, see Volver (tango). For the album by the Enrico Rava/Dino Saluzzi Quintet, see Volver (album).

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Produced by Esther García
Agustín Almodóvar
Written by Pedro Almodóvar
Starring Penélope Cruz
Carmen Maura
Lola Dueñas
Blanca Portillo
Yohana Cobo
Chus Lampreave
Music by Alberto Iglesias
Cinematography Jose Luis Alcaine
Edited by José Salcedo
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • 17 March 2006 (2006-03-17)
Running time
121 minutes
Country Spain
Language Spanish
Budget $9.4 million
Box office $85,585,177

Volver (Spanish pronunciation: [bolˈβer], meaning "to go back") is a 2006 Spanish drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Headed by actress Penélope Cruz, the film features an ensemble cast also starring Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo, and Chus Lampreave. Revolving around an eccentric family of women from a wind-swept region south of Madrid, Cruz plays Raimunda, a working-class woman forced to go to great lengths to protect her 14-year-old daughter Paula. To top off the family crisis, her mother Irene comes back from the dead to tie up loose ends.

The plot originates in Almodóvar's earlier film The Flower of My Secret (1995), where it features as a novel which is rejected for publication but is stolen to form the screenplay of a film named The Freezer. Drawing inspiration from the Italian neorealism of the late 1940s to early 1950s and the work of pioneering directors such as Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, Volver addresses themes like sexual abuse, loneliness and death, mixing the genres of farce, tragedy, melodrama, and magic realism. Set in the La Mancha region, Almodovar's place of birth, the filmmaker cited his upbringing as a major influence on many aspects of the plot and the characters.

Volver was one of the films competing for the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. It eventually won two awards: Best Actress (shared by the six main actresses) and Best Screenplay.[1] The film's premiere was held on March 10, 2006, in Puertollano, Spain, where the filming had taken place. Penélope Cruz was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Actress, making her the first Spanish woman ever to be nominated in that category.


Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Soledad (Lola Dueñas) are sisters who grew up in Alcanfor de las Infantas, a small village in La Mancha, but now both live in Madrid. Their parents died in a tragic fire three years prior to the beginning of the film.

Sole returns to the village for the funeral of her elderly and dementia-stricken Aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave). Aunt Paula's neighbour Agustina (Blanca Portillo) confesses to Sole that she has heard Paula talking to the ghost of Sole's mother Irene (Carmen Maura). Sole encounters the ghost herself, and when she returns to Madrid, she discovers that the ghost has stowed away in the trunk of her car. Irene has brought luggage, intending to stay with her daughter for a while, and Sole, though frightened, agrees to let her mother stay with her: Sole operates a hair salon in her apartment, and Irene will assist her, posing as a Russian woman to hide her true identity. Sole tries to determine why her mother's ghost has returned to Earth, asking her if she left anything undone in her life. Irene says that she does have issues to resolve, relating to the questions of why Raimunda hates her and why she is afraid to reveal herself to Raimunda.

Meanwhile Raimunda and her daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo) have a different death to cope with. Paula's father Paco (Antonio de la Torre) attempts to rape her, claiming that he is not really her father, and Paula stabs him in self-defense. Raimunda quickly hides the corpse in the deep-freezer of a nearby restaurant with an absent owner. The restaurant owner, Emilio (Carlos Blanco), is out of town and entrusted Raimunda with the keys so that she can show it to prospective tenants. When members of a film crew happen upon the restaurant, Raimunda strikes a deal to cater for them, and suddenly finds herself back in the restaurant business.

Raimunda reveals to Paula that Paco was not, in fact, her biological father, and promises to tell her the whole story at a later time. Agustina is diagnosed with terminal cancer and must go to Madrid for medical treatment. Raimunda visits her in the hospital. Agustina asks Raimunda if she has seen her mother's ghost. Agustina hopes that the ghost will be able to tell her about the fate of her own mother, who disappeared three years ago without a trace. Raimunda undertakes the task of disposing of Paco's remains: she leaves Paula with Sole, rents a van and transports the freezer to a convenient spot by the river Júcar, 180 kilometres away. While staying in Sole's apartment, Paula meets her grandmother's ghost and grows close to her. The next night, Agustina comes to the restaurant to renew her request to Raimunda to ask her mother's ghost about her own mother's whereabouts. She reveals two startling secrets: that Raimunda's father and Agustina's mother were having an affair and that Agustina's mother disappeared on the same day that Raimunda's parents died.

Sole finally confesses to Raimunda that she has seen their mother's ghost and that the ghost is, in fact, watching television in the next room with Paula. Irene admits that she did not, in fact, die in the fire, and reveals the whole truth. We learn that the reason for Raimunda and Irene's estrangement is that Raimunda's father sexually abused her, resulting in the birth of Paula; thus Paula is Raimunda's daughter and also her sister. Raimunda had been angry with her mother for never noticing and ending this abuse. Irene tells Raimunda that she had never understood Raimunda's anger and distance until her Aunt Paula told her about what her husband had done to her daughter, and Irene became furious with herself when she found out.

Irene explains that she found her husband in bed with another woman and started the fire that killed them both. The ashes that had been presumed to be Irene's were, in fact, the ashes of Agustina's mother, the woman with whom Irene's husband was having an affair. After the fire, Irene wandered for several days in the countryside, until she decided that she wanted to turn herself in. But first, she wanted to say goodbye to her sister Paula, who had lost the ability to look after herself and with whom Irene had been living prior to setting the fire that killed her husband. Paula, who was living in the past due to her senility, welcomed Irene home as if nothing had happened, and Irene stayed, caring for her sister and expecting that the police would come soon to arrest her. Due to the superstitious and closed nature of the community, however, the police never came and the residents, who are accustomed to tales of the dead returning, explained the rare sightings of Irene as "un fantasma", a ghost.

The family reunites at Aunt Paula's house. Irene reveals her presence to Agustina, who believes her to be a ghost. Irene pledges to stay in the village and care for Agustina as her cancer worsens, saying to Raimunda that it was the least that she could do after killing Agustina's mother. In the last scene Raimunda visits her mother at Agustina's house. The two embrace and tell one another that they now have time to repair their relationship.


Top to bottom: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Blanca Portillo and Lola Dueñas star in the film:



Volver was first developed by Pedro Almodóvar, based on a story actress Marisa Paredes told him during the production of their 1995 film The Flower of My Secret, another film set in the La Mancha region.[2] The story revolved around a heartbroken Puerto Rican man who opts to kill his mother-in-law in hopes of reuniting with his beloved wife, who left him and broke off contact, at her mother's funeral. Owning a restaurant, he leaves it in his neighbour's care, when he is about to kill his victim.[2] Fascinated by the story and its background, Almodóvar decided on incorporating elements of it into the screenplay of The Flower of My Secret, making it the plot of a movie-within-the-movie based on the main character's novel in the film.[2] While working on the script for Volver, he would however settle on outlining the role of the neighbour Raimunda, as the film's central character, while Emilio, the Puerto Rican, eventually became a supporting role only.[3]

Almodóvar says of the story that "it is precisely about death...More than about death itself, the screenplay talks about the rich culture that surrounds death in the region of La Mancha, where I was born. It is about the way (not tragic at all) in which various female characters, of different generations, deal with this culture".[4]


Penélope Cruz was the first reported to have landed one of the starring roles in Volver, having previously worked with Almodóvar on his films Live Flesh (1997) and All About My Mother (1999).[5] In preparing for her role, the actress watched Italian neorealism films from the 1950s, many of them starring Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale, to study "the Italian maggiorate" that Almodóvar envisioned for her performance in the film.[2] Cruz, who had to wear a prosthetic bottom while filming, noted the role of Raimunda as "the best gift an actress can get".[6]

Carmen Maura, the star of Almodóvar's debut Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980) and five additional films with the director, was the first to be cast in the film alongside Cruz.[5] Her engagement marked her first collaboration with Almodóvar after a period of 18 years and a reported fallout during the production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1989).[7] Maura commented on the "borderline character" of Irene as a "very complicated [role to play]".[7]


The tango "Volver" by Carlos Gardel with lyrics by Alfredo Le Pera is converted to flamenco and is sung in the movie with the voice of Estrella Morente and lip synced by Penélope Cruz. The dance tune playing at the party prior to Raimunda's lip syncing is called "Good Thing" by the British three-piece indie-dance combo Saint Etienne.


Almodóvar and Cruz on the red carpet at the 2006 Prince of Asturias Awards.

Box office

In the US alone, the film had made $12,897,993 (15.4% of total) at the box office after 26.4 weeks of release in 689 theatres. The box office figure from the rest of the world is somewhere in the region of $71,123,059 (84.6% of total) according to Box Office Mojo. The total worldwide gross is estimated at $84,021,052.[8]

As of January 22, 2007, the film had grossed $12,241,181 at the Spanish box office.[9]

Critical reception

Fotogramas, Spain's top film magazine, gave it a five-star rating.[10] Upon its U.S. release, A. O. Scott made it an "NYT Critics' Pick" and wrote:[11]

To relate the details of the narrativedeath, cancer, betrayal, parental abandonment, more deathwould create an impression of dreariness and woe. But nothing could be further from the spirit of Volver which is buoyant without being flip, and consoling without ever becoming maudlin. Mr. Almodóvar acknowledges misfortuneand takes it seriouslyfrom a perspective that is essentially comic. Very few filmmakers have managed to smile so convincingly in the face of misery and fatality: Jean Renoir and Billy Wilder come immediately to mind, and Mr. Almodóvar, if he is not yet their equal, surely belongs in their company. Volver is often dazzling in its artificeJosé Luis Alcaine's ripe cinematography, Alberto Iglesias's suave, heart-tugging score but it is never false. It draws you in, invites you to linger and makes you eager to return.

Roger Ebert gave it his top rating of (four stars out of 4), calling it "enchanting, gentle, transgressive" and notes "Almodovar is above all a director who loves womenyoung, old, professional, amateur, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, dead, alive. Here his cheerful plot combines life after death with the concealment of murder, success in the restaurant business, the launching of daughters and with completely serendipitous solutions to (almost) everyone's problems".[12]

As of 2015, the film has a "Certified Fresh" rating from critics at Rotten Tomatoes, scoring a 92% based on 148 "fresh" reviews out of 161 critics, with the general consensus being "Volver catches director Pedro Almodóvar and star Penélope Cruz at the peak of their respective powers, in service of a layered, thought-provoking film".[13]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2006.[14]

General top ten

Awards and nominations

(Awards won are in bold)

Volver received a standing ovation when it was screened as part of the official selection at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, and won the Best Screenplay award as well as the award for Best Actress which was shared by the six stars of the film.[1]

Cruz was nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards, BAFTAs and Screen Actors Guild Awards. The film won the National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It received two nominations at the 63rd Golden Globe Awards: Best Actress for Penélope Cruz as well as Best Foreign Language Film.


  1. 1 2 3 "Festival de Cannes: Volver". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
  2. 1 2 3 4 D'Ursi, Carlo (2006-03-14). "Interview with Pedro Almodóvar, Director". Cineuropa. Cineuropa.org. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
  3. Pérez, Armando; Rey, Jennifer. "Volver:Regreso A La Mancha". Cineactual. Cineactual.net. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  4. A Volver Diary by Pedro Almodóvar
  5. 1 2 "Penélope Cruz Meets Carmen Maura In "Volver", To Be Filmed On Madrid And Castilla La Mancha". Clubcultura.com. 2005-05-16. Retrieved 2011-08-26.
  6. Murray, Rebecca (2005-05-16). "Penelope Cruz Talks About "Volver"". About.com. Retrieved 2011-08-26.
  7. 1 2 D'Ursi, Carlo (2006-03-14). "Interview with Carmen Maura, Actress". Cineuropa. Cineuropa.org. Retrieved 2011-08-26.
  8. Volver (2006) from boxofficemojo.com
  9. Volver (2006) - International Box Office Results from boxofficemojo.com
  10. Volver (2006), Fotogramas.
  11. Scott, A. O. (November 3, 2006). "The Darkest of Troubles in the Brightest of Colors". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  12. Ebert, Roger (November 22, 2006). "Volver". The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  13. Volver at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-02-07
  14. "Metacritic: 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2008-01-08.

External links

Preceded by
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Cannes Film Festival
Prix du scénario

Succeeded by
The Edge of Heaven
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