Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

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Spain | 1988 | 88 minutes | Pedro Almodóvar

January 8, 2020

SIFF Movie Club

When Pepa (Carmen Maura) finds out that her lover Iván (Fernando Guillén) is abandoning her, she is despondent beyond consolation and plans to commit suicide by consuming gazpacho laced with sleeping pills. But things don't go as planned and her friend Candela (María Barranco) shows up with fears of having romanced a terrorist, followed soon after by the arrival of Iván's son Carlos (Antonio Banderas).

As Pepa's crisis unfolds, the archly constructed characters and plot points pile up, including Iván's gun-toting wife Lucia (Julieta Serrano) who's out for revenge, Carlos's terribly thirsty and sexually pent-up girlfriend Marisa (Rossy de Palma), and a literal burning bed. With Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Almodóvar finally broke through to a mainstream audience without sacrificing any of his restless charm or biting, farcical tendencies, blending those impulses into a deadly refined mélange of comedic situations enriched by their debt to classic Hollywood films, some obvious (such as when Iván and Pepa dub Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar into Spanish) and others (like a quick reference to Hitchcock's Rear Window) a little more deeply entwined into the film's overall cinematic DNA.

"A feminist comedy with real bite; it always brings down the house."—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

  • Director: Pedro Almodóvar
  • Principal Cast: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano
  • Country: Spain
  • Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 88 minutes
  • Screenplay: Pedro Almodóvar
  • Language: Spanish