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Stars: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Antonio de la Torre, Lola Dueas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo

Director: Pedro Almodovar

A warm-hearted - and likeable - black comedy, set in a Spanish village, where the local beauty is Raimunda (a voluptuous Cruz). A hard worker, she's close to her 14-year-old daughter (Cobo), but rather less so to her good-for-nothing, jobless husband Paco (de la Torre).

When the daughter stabs a rape-bent Paco to death, Raimunda hides his body in a freezer chest, thus being unable to attend the funeral of a dotty aunt who has been mysteriously looked after in her last years.

Raimunda's parents were believed killed in a fire, but, even as she seizes on the absence of a local restaurateur to run his taverna for a while to accommodate a local film crew, the ghost of her mother (Maura) arrives on the scene to sort a few things out!

Other plot threads involve Raimunda's plain hairdresser sister (Dueas) and joint-smoking Agostina (Portillo), whose own mother vanished on the night of the fire...

There aren't many men in this, but you don't miss them, thanks to charismatic performances, especially from Cruz and Due?as. Maura is a little too arch as the ghost who may not be quite what she seems. Nice widescreen photography supplies the top-dressing to an attractive package.

David Quinlan

Spain 2006. UK Distributor: Pathé. Eastman Colour.
121 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 20 Aug 2006