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  Flower of My Secret, The Losing Love
Year: 1995
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Stars: Marisa Paredes, Juan Echanove, Carme Elias, Rossy de Palma, Chus Lampreave, Kiti Mánver, Joaquín Cortés, Manuela Vargas, Imanol Arias, Gloria Muñoz, Juan José Otegui, Nancho Novo, Jordi Mollà, Alicia Agut, Marisol Muriel, Teresa Ibáñez
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Leo Macías (Marisa Paredes) is a highly successful author of romance novels of the kind that are not taken seriously by the literati but are snapped up like hot cakes by the general public, usually female readers. But her pen name Amanda Gris hides a woman full of doubts and insecurities about her real life relationships, and today as she types away she gets distracted by the fact her boots are on too tight, so tight that she cannot get them off. She begins a quest to find someone who can help her with her footwear, aiming for her best friend Betty (Carme Elias) who is a psychologist working with trainee doctors, but she is waylaid by a panhandler who cannot get those boots off either. Does Leo need a man in her life to help her out?

When Flower of My Secret, or La flor de mi secreto as it was known in Spanish, was released, it appeared to herald a new phase in the career of its director Pedro Almodóvar, in light of its more serious tone that eschewed the camp he was most celebrated for. Some of his fans were less than enamoured of this change of pace, preferring the bright colours and heightened emotions of his earlier work, but on closer examination, they were present, just dialled down to a more realistic level, though the plot still hinged on a particular brand of melodrama that could have seen the filmmaker continue in the style to which we had become accustomed. However, was this necessarily a good thing?

It was safe to say there were a lot fewer laughs in this than there had been before, which prompted many to wonder if Almodóvar had grown up or indeed lost his sense of humour, yet again the amusing aspects were there, simply more muted thanks to the drama being faithful to what the director believed real life to be like. It was true to say his depiction of Leo's depression spoke to an authenticity, leaving a movie akin to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown not only without the wackiness, but without the verge too, as the protagonist plunges, part willingly, part thanks to circumstances beyond her control, into near-suicidal misery. Not exactly light and frothy, then, and far from the safer position of including the jokes.

Not that Almodóvar put those jokes in to be entirely irreverent, they were also there because they offset the serious emotions and made them easier to bear, or at least relate to, so what happened when they were not there and all the dejection was unadorned with the frippery of gags? The results were jarring for many back in 1995, but now we have seen him tackle much the same material in the works he produced later on, we can understand more where he was coming from. Of course, there are those who much prefer his efforts when he ditches the humour and is entirely sincere, even to the point of bringing the audience to tears, but then he was always invested in the emotional lives of his characters, no matter how absurd or over the top they appeared to be on the surface.

Therefore Flower of My Secret was less a radical departure, and more a different point of view on the same subjects Almodóvar had been concentrating on for years: the romantic disappointments of women, the value of family which could go either way, and the special connections females can enjoy that simply seem to be beyond the men in his films. Leo is married to a military man who is not often around (at this stage he is working in the Bosnian conflict), but she is completely invested in their relationship to the extent of not understanding that it is pretty much over, she just hasn't realised it yet. Add in complications from her mother (Chus Lampreave, probably receiving her best role in this director's work) and sister (Rossy de Palma) who are always at loggerheads, and her publisher (Juan Echanove) who despite not being obvious Latin lover material proves far more reliable than any of the other males, and you had a story that was as busy as before, but with a more considered mood. Whether you preferred that to the farce was a matter of taste, but credit Almodóvar's range within his parameters. Music by Alberto Iglesias.

[This title is included in the Blu-ray box set The Almodóvar Collection, with excellent prints of not only The Flower of My Secret but also Dark Habits, Law of Desire, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Kika. Each disc has a featurette of interviews with selected cast members and their director, plus an introduction by an expert.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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