Rose’s decline after he arrival at chez Burbank is quite the plunge. Dunst, however, is so good, so heartbreakingly real, that she makes it all believable. An actress who has been superb in so many movies, gliding back and forth with ease between lead and support, this is the role that finally gets Dunst her due and, hopefully her first Oscar nomination.
However, it is doubtful if Almodóvar could have achieved these heights without the transcendent performance of his leading lady Penelope Cuz who like her director does the best work of illustrious career playing Janis, a single woman pushing forty who is about to give birth to her first child.
And in this Heaven Irene sees a vision. A woman of such beauty and grace that both she and the audience are in a sort of delicious trance. And the woman is staring straight at her and smiling. The woman then rises from her chair and appears to be leaving but no, wait, she is actually headed for Irene who is completely flummoxed and does not recognize that it is her old friend Claire from high school who, granted, has undergone a few changes like dying her hair peroxide blond.
But there is another astonishing element to this film and that is Amins’s sexuality. Knowing that he is gay from an early age, his view of society and his displacement to foreign lands is, therefore, seen and experienced from the point of view of a double outsider. This also leads to some very funny situations – the film is always buoyant and life-affirming even at it’s bleakest moments.