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Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988, Antonio Banderas, Carmen Maura)



Pedro Almodóvar’s seventh full-length feature is a riotous and raucous comedy that firmly established the Spanish director on the international scene. Eschewing the overt gay themes of previous films such as Law of Desire and Matador but retaining their camp sensibilities, Women on the Verge… is a wonderfully adroit farce, inspired by Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice. As ever, Almodóvar fills the screen with a delightful array of female characters, most notably Carmen Maura in the lead role. Explaining his enduring fascination with casting women as the heroes of his films, the director explains, ‘I am much more curious about women, I always listen to their conversations in buses and subways. Women are more spontaneous and more surprising as dramatic subjects, and my spontaneity is easier to conduct through them.’

Things get very spontaneous here. When Pepa (Maura) discovers that her long-term lover Ivan (Fernando Guillén) has asked her to vacate their apartment on an answer phone message, she doesn’t take the news well, especially as she’s just found out that she’s pregnant. After initially setting fire to the flat in revenge, she then decides merely to rent it out. As luck would have it, the first couple to view the apartment are Ivan’s 20-year-old son Carlos (Antonio Banderas) and Marisa (Rossy de Palma). Pepa’s state of confusion is aggravated by the arrival of a desperate friend, Candela (María Barranco), who claims she is on the run from the police because of her relationship with a Shi’ite terrorist. This heady cocktail is further enlivened by the presence of a tranquilliser-laden gazpacho soup at Pepa’s flat, two police officers and a gay taxi driver with a very personal taste in car decor.

production details
Spain | 88 minutes | 1988

Writer and Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Carmen Maura as Pepa
Antonio Banderas as Carlos
Julieta Serrano as Lucía
María Barranco as Candela
Rossy de Palma as Marisa
Kiti Mánver as Paulina Morales
Guillermo Montesinos as Taxista
Loles León as Secretaria
Agustín Almodóvar as Empleado Inmobiliaria
Ana Leza as Ana
Fernando Guillén as Iván
Ángel de Andrés López as Policía
José Antonio Navarro as Policía II
Juan Lombardero as Germán
Chus Lampreave as Portera Testiga de Jehová
Mary González as Madre de Lucía