Saturday, May 18, 2024

Strange Way of Life movie review (2023)

Without spoiling anything, the final scene of this 31-minute film really clarifies its purpose: the story of a man who couldn’t envision a domestic life with another man, even if that man might be his soulmate. “Strange Way of Life” exudes the confidence we’ve come to expect from Almodóvar, even if it ultimately feels like this is the first act of a richer, more complex feature film. However, there’s something beautiful about this short’s brevity, a sense that we can fill in what happens next or how this could have been fleshed out to be a longer piece.

That imaginary feature probably starts 25 years before Silva (Pedro Pascal) rides back into the town where Jake (Ethan Hawke) is now the Sheriff. From the minute they’re reunited, there’s the sense that these two very different men once weren’t so different. While Silva remains open and vulnerable, Jake is bitter and hardened by life, as if Silva’s exit from his life took all chances of happiness with him. It’s revealed that not only were Silva and Jake once lovers, but Silva hasn’t returned merely to rekindle the affair. Silva’s son Joe (George Steane) is wanted for murder by Sheriff Jake, leading to a conflict wherein Jake may have to choose between getting his suspect or taking this one last chance for happiness. And what’s Silva’s real intention? Is he bedding Jake again so he doesn’t bring the hammer of the law down on Joe?

“Strange Way of Life” was produced by Saint Laurent Productions, which gives some of this piece, especially a flashback to a young Joe and Silva getting frisky under some spilling wine barrels, the sense that this is a fashion advertisement as much as it is a movie. However, Pascal and Hawke counter the vibrant colors that one would expect with “Almodóvar and Saint Laurent.” They ground the short with an appropriately surly performance from Hawke and a gentle one from Pascal. It also helps to have a notable pedigree alongside Almodóvar that includes luscious cinematography from José Luis Alcaine (“Volver,” “The Skin I Live In”) and a beautiful score from another regular collaborator, the great Alberto Iglesias.

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