Broken Embraces


Broken Embraces

Critics Consensus

Pedro Almodovar's fourth film with Penélope Cruz isn't his finest work, but he brings his signature visual brilliance to this noirish tale, and the cast turns in some first-class performances.



Reviews Counted: 153

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,503


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Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.7/5

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Movie Info

A follow-up to Spanish enfant terrible Pedro Almodóvar's 2006 arthouse sensation Volver, Los Abrazos Rotos finds the filmmaker re-teaming with actress Penélope Cruz and working on a canvas much broader than those of his previous outings, in terms of genres covered, narrative scope, and duration. Lluís Homar stars as the former Mateo Blanco, a screenwriter and ex-director who changed his name to Harry Caine after losing his sight in an automobile accident. A past scandal suddenly resurfaces when the news arrives that the producer of one of Harry's old movies ("Girls and Suitcases"), a corrupt stockbroker named Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez), has died. For mysterious reasons, this makes Harry's ex-production manager Judit (Blanca Portillo) nervous; then Ernesto's son, Ray X (Rubén Ochandiano), turns up and asks Harry to help him write a vindictive script to get back at his vile father. The film subsequently flashes back to the early '90s, when Martel became involved with his secretary, Lena (Cruz), but Mateo also began to develop feelings for her, and auditioned her for "Girls and Suitcases." In response to Mateo's interest in Lena (and her burgeoning interest in him), the jealous Martel commissioned Ray to make a documentary about the making of "Girls and Suitcases" as an excuse to spy on the director and star. This enabled him to watch Mateo spiriting off with Lena right under his nose, and set the stage for the wily producer's elaborate revenge against Mateo. As this synopsis suggests, Almodóvar uses a tricky structure laden with flashbacks to both comment on and explain the events of the present; he also interweaves a noirish sensibility throughout the picture that marks something of a first for this director. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Broken Embraces

All Critics (153) | Top Critics (40)

  • While it may not be Almodóvar's greatest work, it still stands well above most other films in terms of intrigue, intelligence and innovation.

    Jan 8, 2010 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • This melancholy romance is the first Almodovar feature I've ever really liked, an expertly fashioned melodrama that steers mercifully clear of his usual puckishness and star-mongering.

    Jan 8, 2010 | Full Review…
  • Stylish and sly, an engaging exercise that gives us less than meets the eye.

    Jan 7, 2010 | Rating: 3/4
  • One failing in the film is how boring it is to watch Cruz pretend to be a bad actress. The comic movie within a movie, which borrows from Women on the Verge, isn't funny.

    Jan 6, 2010 | Rating: 2/4
  • It all adds up to an entertaining mash of suspense and melodrama.

    Dec 28, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • As long as Almodovar keeps investing such thought and energy in his work, he can play with whatever themes he desires.

    Dec 28, 2009 | Rating: 4.5/5

Audience Reviews for Broken Embraces

A pretentious and ridiculously self-aggrandizing melodrama that feels like an empty excuse to explore the beauty of Almodóvar's muse Penélope Cruz with his camera - and that unwelcome self-reference to one of his classic films is not only unfunny but a complete embarrassment.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Slow to start, but a powerful finish. Incredible storytelling, subtle direction, and absorbing acting, easy choice if you're in the mood for Artistic+Foreign. Looking forward to watching Volver...

Jason Robinson
Jason Robinson

Super Reviewer


Standard fare for Almodovar. And I dont mean that in a negative way. This man coasting is still leaps and bounds more fascinating than the pet projects of many directors. It is hyper-sexual, highly-stylized, and has melodrama oozing out of every pore. The production is regal and elegant, with brilliant colors bursting on screen while characters do their best to control the mess that their elicit passions have made. While it may not carry the same weight as Talk to Her or All About My Mother, it is an entertaining story told richly by one of the world's premiere filmmakers.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

The scope of human suffering and joy is fervently wide in Almodovar's take on love, lust, and relationships in his first broad genre film. The film showcases a beatific premise of following the love affair of two ill fated star crossed lovers, thrown together in the strangest of circumstances, beating back barriers put up by a powerful ex-lover. The story isn't very complex or hard to follow by any means, but there is a lot of explanation and back-story included, a series of confessional conversations between the intertwining characters. Each of the characters in this film are intricately developed, none without some study of their personality, or what has lead them to their current position. The film spans sixteen years in total, encompassing a painful journey for aspiring actress and former secretary Lena (Cruz) now embroiled in a purely profit escapade with financier Martel (Gomez) and an affair with screenwriter and director Mateo (Homar). Cruz is obviously Almodovar's muse, their second collaboration after Volver. He showcases the sterling beauty with many shots of her smiling, head tilted, vulnerable to the point of a newborn fawn. Without Cruz, the sweetness of the film would have been drained for a tenser thriller between their love and the oppositional Ernesto. It's shot beautifully, the subject matter is plain but well executed, and the acting is truly wonderful. I'd say one of Almodovar's best films to date.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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