Synopsis by Mark Deming
Two sisters learn that the bonds of family don't always end after death in this gentle observational comedy drama that marks celebrated Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar's 16th feature. The story explores the interactions between three generations of women in a Spanish family. Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) was born and raised in the apocryphal village of Alcanfor de las Infantas, in La Mancha, Spain. However, she now resides in Madrid, where she works as a janitor. She is married to Paco (Antonio de la Torre), an unemployed layabout, and looks after her daughter, Paula (Yohana Cobo). Raimunda's mother, Irene (Carmen Maura), died several years back (along with her father) in a house fire. Raimunda's younger sister, Sole (Lola Dueñas), also lives in Madrid and works as a hair stylist, while their aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave) still makes her home in La Mancha, with occasional help from neighbor Agustina (Blanca Portillo). The story takes an unusual and mystical twist when Agustina mentions that Irene has begun reappearing in ghostly form -- a fact questioned by Raimunda and Sole. After a murder and an unexpected family tragedy, Paula's story is indeed corroborated by the appearance of Irene's spirit (who has come to comfort her family), and Sole must decide how to respond to the long-dead mother's strange, enchanting presence.