Almodóvar’s foray into westerns is more about style than emotion

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Strange Way of Life
Opens Oct. 6
 2.5 out of 5

For most critics, Pedro Almodóvar can do no wrong. Obviously, they have never seen the painfully unfunny comedy I’m So Excited or Parallel Mothers, a melodrama that plays like a karaoke version of his better movies.

Strange Way of Life not only coasts on the Spanish auteur’s past work, but on Brokeback Mountain and the Saint Laurent fashion brand. A half hour western starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal, the film is slight and a bit silly, but transgressive enough to upset the likes of people currently protesting sex-ed and inclusion in public schools.

While investigating the murder of his sister-in-law, Sheriff Jake (Hawke) welcomes an old friend, Silva (Pascal). Many years ago, the two gunslingers had a passionate affair and it only takes a couple of bottles of wine for them to pick up where they left off. Alas, Silva has an agenda that puts him in collision course with his former lover.

The western trope of pitting friends against each other becomes more interesting by adding romance to it. Hawke does the sturdy lawman in the vein of John Wayne. Pascal is a notch more interesting as the gunslinger juggling conflicting interests. But there’s nothing here that wasn’t covered in Brokeback. Steamy sex scenes between two A-listers, you ask? Not really, just their “younger” selves in a flashback.

It’s extremely rare for a short film to get a theatrical release unless paired with a feature (the Pixar model). Mongrel Media has packaged Strange Way of Life with the daffy (if superior) The Human Voice, Almodóvar’s 2020 short starring Tilda Swinton as a jilted lover dealing with abandonment in a fabulously chic apartment. The moral of both films is if you’re going to get your heart broken, get a new wardrobe and call your decorator. ■