The 2009 release Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos) is one of my all-time favorite movies for so many reasons.
I love the sound of Spanish, I think Pedro Almodovar makes art not cinema and I admire Penelope Cruz’s slender, all eyeliner, understated glamour. The explosion of color, the high heels, the post-modern Italian furniture and design, the pop art, kitsch religious iconography, the revelatory mirror scenes, the dramatic landscapes of Lanzarote, Canary Islands, the flawed but fierce female characters, that haunting Werewolf song by Cat Power, the big,bold, unashamed emotions – all so exaggerated yet so beautiful!
This film is all about colors, couches and Catholicism. The real reason I love this movie though is because parts of the movie is shot in Canary Islands – a place where Estelle, my Spanish mother is from. She’s not my biological mother of course but she’s been the best mother and teacher to me in so many ways in the little time I spent with her. Since she’s so far away and I haven’t had a chance to meet her in years – I put on this movie whenever I think about her or miss her.
I can still hear Julio Iglesias’ music playing in the background as she spoke about how she vacationed on the Atlantic with her parents and sister Angela in the 70s. I can still feel the cool mist of water on my face and smell the freshly cut grass as I watched her lovingly tend to her expansive garden of rare orchids and fruit trees. I can still hear the barking in the background as she prepared meals for her nine rescue pups. I can still taste the ripe freshly picked mangos, avocado with paella, roasted bread fruit, pot roast and soups from her busy kitchen. I can still feel the warmth of her embrace as I bid her goodbye to go back home.
Why I admire Estelle so much is because – shes taken care of her differently abled sister like a mother after her parents’ passing, she married late because she couldn’t find a husband who’ll allow her to continue to care for Angela. When she wed Harry – it was only a few years of wedded bliss before they had to fight his cancer battle together. During this difficult time, they were also the ideal, doting parents to their young adopted daughter.
Inspite of money problems, Harry’s failing health, Angela’s complete dependence on her, their bright 8-year old child’s constant drooling issue, her own insecurities about her future and that of her family – I never once saw Estelle sigh or complain. She was so strong, she had great faith in humanity – in doing good, in being good, in helping others, in caring for people and animals, in love. I never once heard her speak ill of anyone – even the worst of them. She had the ability to put herself in other people’s shoes, was so empathetic and her actions always spoke louder than her words. Always. She is an amazing woman, the kind of selfless, loving person I wish I could be!
Today, Estelle has found love again after Harry’s passing. I truly wish her all the happiness that she so deserves. I know how much she loved to travel but hadn’t been able to. I do hope this time around, she gets to go to the Canary Islands of her childhood that she so wistfully spoke about. Soon Estelle soon!
Broken Embraces reminds me of her and my intense, fleeting memories with her – a beautiful lilting melody that continues to play in my head long after the music has stopped. It’s an embrace I don’t want to let go.
Do you have a favorite movie that you’ve watched more than a few times? Which one? Tell me