Two men learn how to ‘Talk to Her’ in gentle love story playing at Images

Two men are sitting together by chance in a darkened theater, watching a dance performed on-screen. Benigno (Javier Camara) looks over and sees the man beside him (Marco, played by Dario Grandinetti) crying because he is so moved by the dance, which depicts two blind women on a floor crowded with a daunting obstacle-course of chairs. This mutli-layered opening scene is the first hint of the complex plot of Pedro Almodovar’s film Talk to Her.

Benigno has been looking after Alicia (Leonor Watling) for four years, ever since she first went into a coma. Benigno’s buoyant faith and hope are illustrated by his dedication to taking care of a woman who has been essentially dead for four years. He even goes so far as to cut Alicia’s hair in the same style as when she arrived at the hospital; in his love, he wishes to maintain an identical world in order to protect Alicia from the inevitably difficult adjustment to changes during her absence. The single act of cutting her hair shows how completely Benigno operates in anticipation of Alicia’s eventual return to consciousness.

The other man in the movie theater is Marco, a writer beginning a relationship with feisty bull-fighter Lydia (Rosario Flores). After being brutally gored by a bull, Lydia also falls into a coma. While Lydia is in the hospital, Benigno and Marco meet up once again.

From this point on, much of the film focuses on the interaction between Benigno and Marco. Benigno tries to help Marco deal with the pain of having a loved one in a coma; a compassionate counselor, he tells Marco to keep talking to Lydia, even if she’s unable to visibly react to his words. Through their friendship, Marco begins to hope for Lydia’s recovery and Benigno finally finds a real friend. Marco has dealt with the pain of a failed relationship and is sorely realistic, while Benigno seems to be living in a fantasy world, believing that a woman in a coma can hear him.

Both actors bring a great deal of credibility to their respective roles. Camara’s acting shines whenever he talks to Alicia; his ability to convey authenticity and sincerity leaves the viewer in no doubt of his love for Alicia. Grandinetti portrays Marco as a jaded man who has suffered a great deal through severe expressions and sharp edges.

The dialogue is carried out beautifully by the actors and centers around the contrast between the couples’ relationships. The conversations between Benigno and Marco help emphasize their respective personalities, showing that Benigno treats Alicia as a conscious person and Marco treats Lydia as a lifeless object. There are also many points in the movie highlighting the cinematic importance of the absence of dialogue, such as shots of Benigno bathing or caring for Alicia. All the characters in the film experience hardship, and all address hardship in a different manner. In this sense, Talk to Her is a character-driven film, revolving around the personal struggles of four interlocked lives and personalities. Ultimately, the film succeeds in providing more questions than answers, offering the audience a thought-provoking vision of love, separation and suffering.

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