Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Volver Movie Poster Image
Penelope Cruz shines in mother-daughter tale.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The story concerns the murders of unfaithful or otherwise wayward men; the female characters support one another.


Violent death is a recurrent theme: At the film's start, widows tend their husbands' gravestones and discuss one man's death by burning in a fire; a girl murders the man she thinks is her father (off screen, but bloody body and floor are explicit); Raimunda spends the rest of the film trying to dispose of the body; her mother appears as a ghost; a friend dies of cancer; repeated discussions of incest/rape.


Frequent shots of voluptuous women (especially Cruz) in tight skirts, showing cleavage; a neighbor is a prostitute; Paco looks at his daughter's crotch when she sits in a chair in their living room; several references to incest; shot of daughter from Pedro's peeping point of view shows the side of her bare breast; girl hears a man moaning as he masturbates (one arm movement visible, but mostly off screen).


One use of "f--k," plus some other language ("s--t," "ass," "hall," "p--sy"), all in subtitles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Agustina grows and smokes marijuana (it alleviates her pain from cancer); she rolls a joint on screen and offers pot to her guests); various characters drink beer, wine, and other drinks in social settings; a couple of background characters smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this mature, subtitled Spanish film -- which deals with heavy topics like funerals, incest, and murder -- isn't likely to appeal to most kids. Though these issues are framed by wry comedy, they remain complex. There are repeated references to men's abusiveness, and one lascivious father figure's drunken advances lead a teenage girl to stab him to death (this all happens off screen, but she's plainly traumatized as she tearfully describes it). The result is a very bloody kitchen, which is shown from many camera angles. Efforts to hide the body are comedic but also underline the physical and emotional difficulty of the task. A mother returns as a "ghost," leading to discussions of past acts of violence (including a house being burned down). Language includes one "f--k."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySuper Spike Lee April 9, 2008


I nice tale that I is fairly safe for for teens.
Teen, 16 years old Written byRainbowDash590 March 28, 2020

Predatory & Uncomfortable

I started watching the film to engage my Spanish. I got about 15/20 minutes in and the father was being all creepy and predatory over his daughter. Watching her... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bygaelletricot July 17, 2019

An exceptional drama about the role of women in family

Volver is a must-see Almodovar drama about the heart and soul of women. The movie revolves around the bonds between women and the features strong, resilient fem... Continue reading

What's the story?

Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and her sister, Sole (Lola Dueñas), mourn their mother, Irene (Carmen Maura), who died years ago in a house fire. The separated Sole is still inclined to romance, while Raimunda -- married to the slovenly, lascivious Paco (Antonio de la Torre) -- is not. Paco soon suffers a bloody end for his abuses, and Raimundo explains his sudden absence as the result of an argument. Her efforts to dispose of the body form a darkly comic, antic little subplot, à la Hitchcock. At the same time, more funerals loom, first when Irene's aged sister Paula (Chus Lampreave) passes on, and again when longtime family friend, Agustina (Blanca Portillo), is hospitalized with cancer. When Agustina tells a story about a spirit who visits her the night Paula dies, the women believe her without question. The ghost turns out to be Irene, returned to make peace with Raimunda. Sole's belief in the ghost makes it acceptable for the rest of us. Irene's reappearance illustrates the extent of the women's community. At ease with one another, they understand limits and pleasure, and how to make the most of both. The women's traumas draw them together even as they create rifts.

Is it any good?

A lush, loving celebration of women's survival, Pedro Almodóvar's VOLVER, as its title suggests, is full of returns, of emotions and bodies, energies and dilemmas -- all of them women's. The most bracing, strange, and provocative aspect of Almodóvar's movie (aside from Cruz's much-remarked-upon magnificence) is its celebration of women's self-understanding.

Yes, men are brutal and slow, and yes, women tolerate them, even love them. But in the end, men are unimportant in the women's patient, purposeful, and proud survival.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's treatment of trauma and reconciliation within families. How is the ghost a metaphor for the way that the past can haunt the present? How does the movie show that mothers and daughters have special bonds (especially in a town where the men tend to die before their wives)? How does Raimunda come to terms with her mother? Do you think the recurring color red is significant? How? The film's title means "return": What various kinds of returns do you see here? How do you think an American-made film might have handled a similar topic? How is this movie similar to and different from Pedro Almodóvar 's other films?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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