Pedro Almodóvar's films always look fantastic, from the carefully framed shots to the use of color and the beautiful clothing his characters wear. His recent short film, Strange Way of Life, is no exception. However, due to its short runtime, the film fails to develop the complex relationship of its central characters, played wonderfully by Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke. The result is a gorgeous-looking film that feels empty.
Strange Way of Life marks Almodóvar's first Western and is produced by fashion label Yves Saint-Laurent. The story concerns two lovers who connect after 20 years apart under circumstances that force them to be rivals. They left each other as young men to pursue the lives they wanted. Now reconnected as older men, they both still yearn for each other. The years seem to melt upon their reunion. Almodóvar applies his visual style and love of melodrama to the Western genre and the marriage is a bit odd. The dapper attire full of color is unusual in the genre.
Silva (Pedro Pascal) and Jake (Ethan Hawke) are brought together when Silva's son is accused of murder. Jake is now sheriff and set on bringing justice. Silva has become a rancher and arrives hoping to save his son. It is Jake's sister-in-law who was murdered so there are deeply personal stakes for both men. Will their love for each other be enough for them to survive this situation? Their loyalty to protect the ones they love created further splits in their relationship.
While this premise is familiar, the film is lush and interesting. The two lead performances, especially Hawke's, are engaging and even moving at times. The trouble is that just as things begin to get interesting, the film ends. Longing is a main theme in the film and the ending certainly will make you long for more of the story. Perhaps that is intentional. However the film feels incomplete at best, a fancy commercial for Yves Saint-Laurent at worst.