There is a lack of men in the director Pedro Almodóvar’s film, Volver. Is this a comment on how an all female world would function? Some of the men aren’t even named! That’s gotta mean something, right? Okay, so Paco is obviously named, but he dies within the first ten minutes. He is murdered by Paula, the young woman he accepted as his daughter, for his heinous actions against her. Her mother, Raimunda, cleans up the body in a hauntingly ordinary way, without ever blaming Paula. The scene is very domestic, with paper towels, a mop, and washing of dishes. This brings us to a question raised by Rivkin and Ryan: “Is ‘mothering’ constructed within patriarchy as the other of ‘fathering’ (understood as nondomestic labor), or is it a value, an ideal, and a human relationship that offers a way out of patriarchy, a different voice and perhaps even a different language?” (769). Is Raimunda’s character a foil to Paco? She takes her mothering role far more seriously than Paco takes his fathering role. Perhaps she is that way out of patriarchy, proving the strength and intelligence of women.
Emilio, the restaurant owner, is briefly present in the beginning of the film, and then only is heard on the phone with Raimunda. He wants to leave the keys to his restaurant with Paco, the man of the house. The only reason that he is okay with Raimunda having them is because he is interested in being romantically involved with her. Later, when Emilio discovers that Raimunda has been running the restaurant, she brings up the fact that she needs the money because of Paco leaving her and Paula. Emilio gives in once he realizes that Paco is no longer in the picture and feels that Raimunda needs a new man in her life (himself!).
The film producer who pays Raimunda to feed his movie crew at the restaurant doesn’t seem to be named, but he is also shown flirting with Raimunda. She denies his advances, and he does not press further. What a guy.
Another detail to note is that Raimunda cleans the grave of her abuser before cleaning up the murder scene of her husband. (Notice that we are using the phrase “the grave of her abuser” rather than “the grave of her father.”) Raimunda and Sole’s father is never named, only referred to as Irene’s husband or Raimunda’s father. Not giving someone a name is a power move. When a tragedy happens, the news coverage makes a big deal about naming the victims and shying away from glorifying the perpetrator. That’s what’s happening here.
In relation to Rivkin and Ryan’s view that “feminist literary scholarship in the 1970s and early 1980s was a rich, sometimes vexed, sometimes convivial world in which words like ‘sisterhood’ had a certain currency,” the strong women main characters are constantly comforting and supporting each other (766).
Agustina, who has no blood relation to the rest of the women is seen being comforted and comforting others throughout the film. Raimunda’s neighbor, who talks about being a sex worker, becomes part of their “sisterhood.” She is never called a “sex worker” however. She is just accepted for who she is and for her profession because she is earning a living for herself. She helps to bury Paco’s body with no questions asked. Even though she gets paid, she says that she would go down with Raimunda if it came to that.
This community of women teaches Paula to be the woman that she is. Raimunda watches over Paula the most – as she is her mother (as well as her sister…) – and protects her no matter the cost. This relates to Rivkin and Ryan’s statement that “one [is] shaped by the child’s relationship with its mother” (768). Raimunda and Paula’s relationship shapes the woman that Paula is becoming, despite the challenges they face. Sole treats Paula with the utmost respect and love, although she is initially hesitant to let Raimunda and Paula into her house upon the possible discovery of Irene. Other generations of women show each other what it means to be a strong woman, as shown by the relationship between Irene and Paula after they get reconnected.
Sooo… Are men even important? According to Volver, men don’t have as much of an importance as women. Almodóvar makes this clear with the way he portrays men in the film, challenging patriarchy and celebrating women’s strength.