Strange Way of Life
Almodovar's second English-language short is a bold foray into a new genre
The natural path for many cinematic artists is shorts to TV to film, albeit the path has somewhat changed in the last decade to shorts to film to TV. However, we are increasingly seeing headline filmmakers making the jump back to the shorter format from Wes Anderson and his recent array of Roald Dahl shorts on Netflix, to Pedro Almodóvar, who first released The Human Voice (2020) during the height of the pandemic and has now released Strange Way of Life (2023).
Strange Way of Life takes place in the American West where two ex-lovers, the cowboy Silva (Pedro Pascal) and the sheriff Jake (Ethan Hawke) reconnect after over twenty-five years absence.
Crisply just clocking under one-hour, Strange Way of Life is a curious new path for Almodóvar, not only because it furthers his wading into English-speaking films, it’s also his first period film. The Spanish auteur is thankfully not restrained by any need for historical accuracy or gritty realness, instead maintaining his colorful palette in his costumes and set designs.
The subtle use of melodrama by Almodóvar is also sustained within the Western genre, using the clashing tones to criticize the toxic masculinity usually seen on display within Westerns. One scene, in a flashback, illustrates this mocking deconstruction of toxic masculinity, as we see Jake and Silva kiss amidst a bacchanal shower of wine, yet they fail to slide their hands down each other’s pants due to the tightness of their gun belts.
Pascal and Hawke prove to be great foils to one another, with Pascal embodying the more open and emotional lover, while Hawke brings a recent characteristic gruffness and repression to his sheriff. The two deliver easy chemistry and complexity in the short runtime, which beg further exploration in a longer feature film.
Almodóvar furthers his familiarity with directing in English as well as challenging himself with a period piece. His takedown of genre proves to be the key to Strange Way of Life, and while the ending has a certain ambiguous beauty, with its abruptness the short would have garnered greater depth and emotional heft with a handful more scenes. As it stands, Stranger Way of Life is still peak Almodóvar, delivering a tease and incompleteness that is sneakily a worthy reflection of the romance in the film.