When FLOWER OF MY SECRET (LA FLOR DI ME SECRETO) first
 opened in the United States in 1995, the movie received generally good
 reviews, although a couple of major critics (like Roger Ebert) dismissed the
 film. It's interesting to go back now and re-examine the movie, since the germ
 for Almodóvar's subsequent work is evident. The initial scene, for instance,
 features a woman named Manuela whose work includes play acting in scenes
 relating to organ donation. The scene appears in a slightly altered form and
 is the nucleus around which
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (1999) revolves. There's
 also a sequence about women living together in a rural village that echoes
 some of the themes the filmmaker tackled in
VOLVER (2006). So in many ways,
 
 FLOWER OF MY SECRET is a seminal film in the director's canon.

         The movie also explores duality  -- a theme Almodóvar raised in both
 
TALK TO HER (2002) and in BAD EDUCATION (2004). The plot of
 
FLOWER OF MY SECRET centers on Leocadia 'Leo' Macías (Marisa
 Paredes), a  romance novelist who publishes under the name Amanda Gris.
 While she successfully explores aspects of love in her fiction, Leo finds her
 own world crumbling. Her career soldier husband Paco (Imanol Arias) is distant
 and Leo cannot see the fault lines in their relationship. Creatively, she is
 drained; instead of churning out the romances for which she has been
 contracted, she turns to melodrama based on a true life case, but she
 discards that as well. Attempting to jumpstart her creative juices, Leo seeks
 employment at a newspaper where she is asked to write a critique of one her
 romance novels. In a warped manner, she deconstructs the writing, albeit
 publishing under yet another pen name.

         At the newspaper, she encounters Ángel (Juan Echanove), an editor
 with a passion for so-called "pink novels" (romances). He pens a counterpoint
 to her critique, praising Amanda Gris. He also begins tentatively wooing Leo
 even though she is still married. There are a series of complications and
 revelations, a suicide attempt, a sojourn to the village where Leo's mother was
 raised, and the requisite happy, if tentative ending. There's also a subplot
 involving Leo's maid (Manuela Vargas) and her son (Joaquín Cortés) and
 a dance performance they hope to stage.

         The performances are all excellent, with the sublime Paredes anchoring
 the movie like one of the classic goddesses of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
 She is ably supported by Echanove and Arias, as well as by Chus Lampreave
 as her hypochondriac mother and Rossy de Palma as her long suffering
 sister.
 
         
FLOWER OF MY SECRET is an important film in the development of
 Pedro Almodóvar's career. It marked a decided turning point from the comedies
 on which he built his reputation and moved him toward a maturity that would
 flourish in the next decade or so.


                          Rating:                B +
                          MPAA Rating:     R for language and brief sexuality
                          Running time:     103 mins.
The Flower of My
Secret

Left: Marisa Paredes     
         as Leo
Right:  Chus
      Lampreave as          
       Leo's mother
The Flower of My
Secret

Left: Marisa Paredes
  as Leo
Right: Imanol Arias as
     Paco
The Flower of My
Secret

Joaquin Cortés as
  Antonio
All photos courtesy of
Sony Pictures Classics,
all rights reserved.

© 2006 SONY PICTURES
ENTERTAINMENT, INC.
© 2006 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Flower of My Secret (La flor de mi secreto)