31 minutes(3 out of 5)
Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera
I am fully convinced that Strange Way of Life was made as an excuse for a bunch of creatives to play cowboys in the desert. With a stacked cast and production team, the short film is the newest addition to director and screenwriter Pedro Almodóvar’s extensive oeuvre broaching themes of desire, family, passion, identity, and LGBTQIA+ issues.
After 25 years, Sheriff Jake (Ethan Hawke) and rancher Silva (Pedro Pascal) meet again. Following a night of passion, Jake must decipher whether his lover’s arrival was indeed to rekindle a love lost or to save his son Joe from the heavy hand of the law. A gruff and hopeless man, Hawke’s Jake exudes a dejected fatalism lifting only for brief moments in Silva’s company. Silva is a hopeless romantic who believes the dream he and Jake once shared can still come to fruition. In Strange Way of Life, Almodóvar subverts the classic trope of the cowboy, painting instead a portrait of compassion that offers new possibilities.
The debut offering from Saint Laurent Productions, a subsidiary of the fashion house Yves Saint Laurent, Strange Way of Life boasts a bright and stylishly curated wardrobe. Antxón Gómez’ production design and José Luis Alcaine’s cinematography possess all the boldness and vibrancy of a signature Almodóvar film. I was struck most of all by the beauty of the editing (Teresa Font), which not only complemented but drove the story.
The brevity of the film means that it goes unfinished, leaving it up to the viewer to fill in the rest of the story. Leaving a movie open-ended enables it to live past its runtime. With this piece, Almodóvar showcases what a short film – but not a short story – can accomplish, catapulting the format back into the cinema as a valid form of expression full of untapped potential. Coming at a time when films seem to be getting increasingly longer (I’m looking at you Killers of the Flower Moon) and the multi-volume series is king, this beautiful slice of cinema is a refreshing reminder that sometimes less is more.