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Even at 30 minutes long the Pedro Almodóvar western Strange Way of Life soon outstays its welcome due to an undercooked narrative, bland characters and an odd lack of visual flair.

It is tempting to think that Pedro Almodóvar has an excellent gay western in him - he was once considered for Brokeback Mountain after all - but on the evidence of Strange Way of Life not all seemingingly ideal matches pan out as planned.

On the surface the 30-minute western has it all. There is a plot about two gunslingers and former lovers reconnecting after 25 years when the son of one of them is about to be hanged. There are actors Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke. There are fabulous Yves Saint-Laurent costumes.

Yet everything in Strange Way of Things just falls flat, as though Almodóvar's heart just wasn't in it. This shows in the awkwardly on-the-nose dialogue, in a lack of chemistry between the leads and most egregiously in the editing, which almost throughout uses a simple shot-countershot close-up whenever the central cowboys are having a conversation. You expect this technique from a freshman film student, but not from Almodóvar.

Frequent collaborator Alberto Iglesias does come up with a memorable score, even if it is used for heightened dramatic effect rather clumsily at times. And I'm sure some people will be excited to get a glimpse of Pedro Pascal's butt.

But that's about all there is to recommend in this tepid short film.

release: 2023

director: Pedro Almodóvar

starring: Ethan Hawke, Pedro Pascal


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