Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz has moved between Hollywood movies and Spanish film for most of her career, becoming one of the most versatile actresses working today.

Back in February she finally got her hands on an Oscar for her role in Vicky, Cristina Barcelona and she returns to the big screen this week with Broken Embraces.

The movie reunites her with Pedro Almodovar, who she worked with on Volver. The film follows a man who writes, lives and loves in darkness. Fourteen years before, he was in a brutal car crash on the island of Lanzarote. In the accident, he not only lost his sight, he also lost Lena, the love of his life.

So to celebrate the movie we take a look at the essential Penelope Cruz movies.

- Volver

Volver came to everyone's attention when it competed for the Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2006.

Another collaboration between Cruz and Almodovar the film picked up two gongs at the festival; Best Actress and Best Screenplay.

The film moves between a La Mancha village and working-class Madrid where village daughter Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) struggles to support her family.

Circumstances seem to conspire against her, but surrounded by three generations of women - hairdresser sister Sole (Lola Dueñas), teen daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), former neighbour Agustina (Blanca Portillo) and haunted by her dead mother (Carmen Maura), Raimunda will do more than survive.

The movie was critically acclaimed, as was the performance from Cruz, she went on to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

- All About My Mother

It's another collaboration with Almodovar All About My Mother was released back in 1999. Distraught over the death of her teenage son, Manuela drives to Barcelona to find the boy's father, an itinerant transsexual named Lola (Toni Canto).

While combing the city's less reputable districts, she also meets up with Agrado (Antonia San Juan), a sassy transvestite prostitute, and Rosa (Penélope Cruz), a pregnant nun on her way to El Salvador.

She also becomes the manager for Huma (Marisa Paredes), the actress her son idolized, and helps her through a run of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Together these great ladies bond through various heartrending crises, enduring the pain and celebrating the beauty of being women (or almost women).

The movie was a critical hit and dominated the awards season that year picked up Best Foreign Film at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

- Jamon Jamon

Released back in 1992 Jamon Jamon was the breakthrough role for Penelope Cruz, as well as her first venture onto the big screen.

Directed by Bigas Luna the movie follows Conchita, the status-conscious wife of a wealthy factory owner, is none too happy to hear that her ne'er-do-well son is bedding the luscious Silvia, daughter of the town prostitute, especially as the girl's mother once had an affair with Conchita's husband.

So Conchita concocts a scheme to end the relationship: she hires Raúl, the town hunk, to seduce Silvia.

But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and a comic roundelay begins when Raúl actually falls for Silvia and Conchita falls for Raúl. It's not long before Raúl is bedding both women... and a confrontation is on its way.

For the role of Silvia Cruz was nominated for the Goya Award for Best Actress and for the Spanish actors Union Newcomer Award.

- Vicky, Cristina Barcelona

Vicky, Cristina Barcelona was the last time we saw the actress back in February, which was a collaboration with filmmaker Woody Allen.

Just as New York City was the backdrop in Woody Allen's Manhattan, the stunning city of Barcelona is the setting for the romantic adventures of Vicky and Cristina.

These two young Americans spend a summer in Spain and meet a flamboyant artist (Bardem) and his beautiful but insane ex-wife (Cruz).

Vicky (Hall) is straight-laced and about to be married. Cristina (Johansson) is a sexually adventurous free spirit. When they all become amorously entangled, the results are both hilarious and harrowing.

Vicky,Cristina Barcelona was the most successful of Allen's movies to be shot outside of America. But it was Cruz's performance that was the most praised.

For her role she picked up her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as well as the Bafta, Goya Award and the Independent Spirit Award.

- Elegy

Starring Cruz and Ben Kingsley Elegy was one of the more bizarre movies of 2008 and was adapted from the Philip Roth novel The Dying Animal.

David Kepesh (Kingsley) is a minor literary celebrity in New York City who shies away from commitment, happy with his casual relationship with a businesswoman (Patricia Clarkson) who is rarely in town.

But a date with a stunning grad student named Consuela (Penelope Cruz) surprisingly turns into a long-term romance, changing David from a confident Lothario into a jealous boyfriend. His age and her beauty haunt their romance until David begins to push her away

Broken Embraces is released 28th August.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

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