“Why did I ever marry? What a fool I was.”
An overworked housewife (Carmen Maura) with an abusive husband (Angel de Andres Lopez), a wacky mother-in-law (Chus Lampreave), and two troubled sons (one a hustler, the other a drug dealer) relies on No-Doz and her prostitute-friend (Veronica Forque) to get by.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Black Comedy
- Family Problems
- Spanish Films
This early film by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is an excellent introduction to his signature style: bizarre situations are accepted as commonplace, sex is on everyone’s minds, women are put-upon by their loutish partners, and female camaraderie is the linchpin of survival. Indeed, the similarities between this and Almodovar’s most recent film, Volver (2006), are too obvious not to notice; watch them back to back and you’ll find that he’s continuing to explore (and exploit) the issues he feels most strongly about. One must be prepared to suspend all judgment and belief when watching What Have I Done…? In what is likely the film’s most jaw-dropping sequence, Gloria blithely gives her son away to a pedophilic dentist in exchange for the bill.
What else can she do, when her husband refuses to let her work but won’t give her money? Indeed, as in Volver, Almodovar has the ultimate respect for female survival: a bizarre subplot about an abused young girl with telekinetic powers serves as a cross-generational reminder that endurance takes many forms. Above all else, however, Almodovar’s films should be enjoyed for the perversity of the characters, the colorful sets, and the seemingly improvised scripts. It’s impossible to predict what will happen next, so simply sit back and enjoy the surreal ride.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Carmen Maura as Gloria
- Veronica Forque as Cristal
- Chus Lampreave as Abuela
- Abuela advising her grandson and his friend to “visit Granada”
- Gloria and Cristal watching an exhibitionist john as he strips
- A bizarre subplot involving a neighbor’s “special” daughter
Yes. This early Almodovar film is one of his wackiest, and a good introduction to his work.