(R) 4 stars Talk to Her is the best film you didn"t see last year. It may just be the best film you see this year, if you trust Pedro AlmodÛvar enough to surrender yourself to his film"s strange, simple premise: It"s the story of two men, each of whom is in love with a woman in a coma. The men first meet one night at an avant-garde dance recital in Madrid. Marco (DarÌo Grandinetti) is a melancholy middle-aged journalist, and though he seems quite macho, he is man enough to weep openly at the beauty of the performance.
Sitting next to Marco is Benigno (Javier C·mara), a sweetly earnest but slightly off-kilter nurse in a coma ward. After the recital is over, Benigno returns to the hospital to describe the performance to his sole patient, Alicia (Leonor Watling), a beautiful young ballerina who has been comatose since a car accident four years earlier. Benigno tends to Alicia"s every need with a meticulous devotion that seems almost obsessive. Marco and Benigno cross paths again when Marco"s lover, the magnificently fiery female matador Lydia (Rosario Flores), is gored by a bull to the brink of death, and becomes a patient on Benigno"s ward. Marco is nearly mad with grief at the sight of Lydia"s battered, nearly lifeless body, but on Benigno"s advice, he tries talking to her. Can Lydia hear him? Despite medical evidence to the contrary, Benigno, a relentless optimist, believes she can. Talk to Her is a film about loneliness and death, and any other director would have shot it in somber tones, but in AlmodÛvar"s hands, the film overflows with color and light and emotion so intense it borders on the erotic; by contrast, the acting is taut and understated, but even the comatose characters seem to speak, wordlessly. Both relationships are plagued by terrible secrets; when the truths are laid bare, Marco and Benigno are exiled away from the objects of their affection. Forging their own peculiar friendship, the men communicate from afar. By the film"s end, two of the four lovers will die; the surviving two meet by chance at the dance theater from the first scene. "Nothing is simple," sighs an elderly ballerina in the lobby - least of all love. Talk to Her is a complicated film, but one with a heart so expansive and so pure you hardly even need to read the subtitles to understand what it"s saying.