A man cries in the opening scene of Pedro Almodovar's \"Talk to Her,\" but although unspeakably sad things are to happen later in the movie, these tears are shed during a theater performance. Onstage, a woman wanders as if blind or dazed, and a man scurries to move obstacles out of her way--chairs, tables. Sometimes she blunders into the wall.
\"Talk to Her\" is a film with many themes; it ranges in tone from a soap opera to a tragedy. One theme is that men can possess attributes usually described as feminine. They can devote their lives to a patient in a coma, they can live their emotional lives through someone else, they can gain deep satisfaction from bathing, tending, cleaning up, taking care. The bond that eventually unites the two men in \"Talk to Her\" is that they share these abilities. For much of the movie, what they have in common is that they wait by the bedsides of women who have suffered brain damage and are never expected to recover.
By Almodovar's standards, this is an almost conventional film; certainly it doesn't involve itself in the sexual revolving doors of many of his movies. But there is a special effects sequence of outrageous audacity, a short silent film fantasy in which a little man attempts to please a woman with what can only be described as total commitment. Almodovar has a way of evoking sincere responses from material which, if it were revolved only slightly, would present a face of sheer irony. \"Talk to Her\" combines improbable melodrama (gored bullfighters, comatose ballerinas) with subtly kinky bedside vigils and sensational denouements, and yet at the end, we are undeniably touched. No director since Fassbinder has been able to evoke such complex emotions with such problematic material.