Strange Way of Life

Hawke and Pascal shoot and score in Almodovar’s hit-&-miss short western.

In his latest short film “Strange Way of Life,” Pedro Almodovar has developed a western that uses the right convictions to draw his loyal fans in. He doesn’t rely on his two leads Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal to sell the movie; he relies on his creative aspect of filmmaking to bring out the best and worst qualities of his characters.

It runs for a half hour, which makes the story seem rushed, and not as glorious as Wes Anderson’s 40 minute tour de force “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.” I was disappointed in that notion, but I still admire the direction and performances enough to recommend “Strange Way of Life.”

We meet the traveler Silva (Pascal), who rides into an old western town for the first time in 25 years to reunite with his former lover-the committed Sheriff Jake (Hawke). They both celebrate with drinks and a night together, but this short isn’t much of a love story, because Jake is on the case about his murdered sister-in-law, and he believes Silva’s son Joe (George Steane) was responsible. The reasons for the accusation are that the killer has a limp just like him, and the young man has a violent relationship with her.

We see a flashback of them in their youth, when they were shooting wineskins so their lady friends can drink some. And we see Jake (Jason Fernandez) and Silva (Jose Condessa) both making out with each other, which would be labeled a forbidden love in this time period.

And when we do see the lovers and the son in a final stand, it really questions their romance and friendship. I can’t say how it ends, but it’s a questionable conclusion.

I really think Hawke meets well with age in his 50s, because of how he adapts to a harden sheriff with his tone and characteristics. And Pascal uses the right kind of qualities to express his character’s choices and humanity. Almodovar guides these two talents on an entertaining scale, even if the story isn’t as perfect as their chemistry.

The poster makes this look like a commercial film, especially when it looks bright and colorful, but the short itself is darker and more complex. It’s the inside that distinguishes itself.

“Strange Way of Life” will be accompanied in theaters by Almodovar’s previous short and his first English-language entry “The Human Voice,” which stars Tilda Swinton as a woman struggling to deal with her ex-lover not taking her away, and features a dog who struggles to take a hint that his owner abandoned him. It all takes place in an apartment on a sound stage in Madrid, and it all pulsates with how the main character reacts to how he doesn’t come for her. It involves an axe, pills, fire, and a phone call with her AirPods.

“The Human Voice” is the better Almodovar short film, but “Strange Way of Life” is a good choice, too. And it kind of makes sense that they both are shown the screen together, considering the ticket prices.

“Strange Way of Life”

Rating: 3 out of 4.

“The Human Voice”

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters This Week

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Categories: Drama, Foreign, Short, Western

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