Volver (Spanish pronunciation: [bolˈβeɾ], 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.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byPedro Almodóvar
Produced byEsther García
Agustín Almodóvar
Written byPedro Almodóvar
StarringPenélope Cruz
Carmen Maura
Lola Dueñas
Blanca Portillo
Yohana Cobo
Chus Lampreave
Music byAlberto Iglesias
CinematographyJose Luis Alcaine
Edited byJosé Salcedo
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • 17 March 2006 (2006-03-17)
Running time
121 minutes
Budget$9.4 million
Box office$87.2 million

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 premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or. It received critical acclaim and ultimately won two awards at the festival, for Best Actress (shared by the six main actresses) and Best Screenplay.[1] The film's Spanish premiere was held on 10 March 2006 in Puertollano, Spain, where the filming had taken place. Cruz was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Actress, making her the first Spanish woman ever to be nominated in that category.[2]


Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Sole (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 had died in a fire three years before.

Sole returns for the funeral of her elderly, 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 their 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. Sole agrees to let Irene stay with her: Sole operates a hair salon in her apartment, and Irene will assist her. Irene says that she wants to know why Raimunda hates her, and why she herself 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 hides the corpse in the deep-freezer of a nearby restaurant with an absent owner, Emilio (Carlos Blanco). When members of a film crew happen upon the restaurant, Raimunda strikes a deal to cater for them, and finds herself back in the restaurant business.

Raimunda reveals to Paula that Paco was not her biological father, and promises to tell her the whole story later. Agustina is diagnosed with terminal cancer and goes to Madrid for 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 her own mother, who disappeared three years before. Raimunda leaves Paula with Sole, rents a van and transports the freezer to a convenient spot by the river Júcar. 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, and Raimunda reveals two startling secrets: her father and Agustina's mother were having an affair, and Agustina's mother disappeared on the same day that Raimunda's parents died.

Sole tells Raimunda that she has seen their mother's ghost, who is in the next room with Paula. Irene admits that she did not, in fact, die in the fire, and reveals the whole truth. 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 her sister. Irene tells Raimunda that she did not know about the abuse until Aunt Paula told her about it, and never forgave herself for failing to stop it.

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 Aunt Paula, who had lost the ability to look after herself and with whom Irene had been living prior to setting the fire. Paula 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, accustomed to tales of the dead returning, explained the rare sightings of Irene as 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. Raimunda visits her mother at Agustina's house, and the two embrace and promise to repair their relationship.


Top to bottom: Penélope Cruz, 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.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3] 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.[4]

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".[5]


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).[6] 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.[3] Cruz, who had to wear a prosthetic bottom while filming, noted the role of Raimunda as "the best gift an actress can get".[7]

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.[6] 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).[8] Maura commented on the "borderline character" of Irene as a "very complicated [role to play]".[8]


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.


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.[9]

As of 22 January 2007 the film had grossed $12,241,181 at the Spanish box office.[10]

Critical reception

Fotogramas, Spain's top film magazine, gave it a five-star rating.[11] Upon its U.S. release, A. O. Scott made it an "NYT Critics' Pick" and wrote:[12]

To relate the details of the narrative—death, cancer, betrayal, parental abandonment, more death—would 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 misfortune—and takes it seriously—from 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 artifice—José 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 women—young, 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".[13]

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".[14]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2006.[15]

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 64th Golden Globe Awards: Best Actress for Penélope Cruz as well as Best Foreign Language Film.


  1. "Festival de Cannes: Volver". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
  2. Schwartz, Missy (November 3, 2006). "Penelope Cruz's return to greatness". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  3. D'Ursi, Carlo (March 14, 2006). "Interview with Pedro Almodóvar, Director". Cineuropa. Cineuropa.org. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  4. Pérez, Armando; Rey, Jennifer. "Volver:Regreso A La Mancha". Cineactual. Cineactual.net. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  5. A Volver Diary by Pedro Almodóvar
  6. "Penélope Cruz Meets Carmen Maura In "Volver", To Be Filmed On Madrid And Castilla La Mancha". Clubcultura.com. May 16, 2005. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  7. Murray, Rebecca (May 16, 2005). "Penelope Cruz Talks About "Volver"". About.com. Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  8. D'Ursi, Carlo (March 14, 2006). "Interview with Carmen Maura, Actress". Cineuropa. Cineuropa.org. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  9. Volver (2006) from boxofficemojo.com
  10. Volver (2006) – International Box Office Results from boxofficemojo.com
  11. Volver (2006), Fotogramas.
  12. Scott, A. O. (November 3, 2006). "The Darkest of Troubles in the Brightest of Colors". The New York Times. New York City: new York Times Company. Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  13. Ebert, Roger (November 22, 2006). "Volver". The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  14. Volver at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-02-07
  15. "Metacritic: 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
Preceded by
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Cannes Film Festival
Prix du scénario

Succeeded by
The Edge of Heaven
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