It’s rare that a 30-minute short finds its way into cinemas, but Pedro Almodovar’s new work has more than a little historical interest.
The Spanish arthouse legend was one of the original choices to direct Brokeback Mountain (he turned it down, believing he wouldn’t be given the freedom he wanted), and almost 20 years later we get to see what his romantic Western would look like.
Almodovar and Ethan Hawke play Silva and Jake, two former gunslingers who were lovers 25 years ago. Now a sheriff, Jake has business that means he crosses paths with Silva again, reigniting a flame that puts both men on uncertain ground.
Filmed with the same melodrama and bravado that you would expect from the director, it’s surprising how neatly his vision fits into the genre. Those expecting something that turns the Western on its head may be shocked to see how reverent he is to the classics, albeit with characters that don’t exactly fit the macho archetype.
The romance is steamy stuff, with both actors providing intense performances as men who can barely contain their emotions at this unexpected meeting. There’s a substantial flashback to their initial relationship, which builds to a nail-biting finale.
The limited time means this feels like a one act play rather than a substantial feature, but to be left wanting more is not always a bad thing.
A Strange Way of Life will be a stylish curio in the filmography of Almodovar, who is on an upward trajectory after the Oscar nominated Parallel Mothers in 2021.
While Ang Lee’s movie turned out pretty well, this shows what might have been had the Brokeback Mountain producers been more daring.