Penelope Cruz. Director Pedro Almodovar. (Spanish, subtitled)A daughter (Cruz) was estranged from her mother when the mother was believed to have died but the mother unexpectedly returns from years in hiding, providing a chance for mother-daughter reconciliation. That’s not exactly a fresh story, but Almodovar makes every scene so visually compelling it’s like visiting an art gallery. Cruz is unquestionably easy on the eyes and she gives a performance more realistic than a stereotype (as she was in Bandidas, for example). This light comedy is a vehicle to display her acting (but not singing) talent, and the director’s own prowess, and it is successful to that extent. Her mother reveals implausible dark secrets from the past, but Cruz does not reveal her own secrets, either to her mother, her daughter, or her sister. None of the relationships feels authentic. Almodovar has Cruz sitting on the toilet, doing laundry, cooking, singing, smelling farts, and denying that she’s had work done on her breasts, apparently to move her from bigger-than-life female icon to ordinary working woman in a suburb of Madrid. But if he wanted to humanize her, he should have put her in a character that had a real developmental arc instead of in this cutesy, slightly ditzy role where she is at all times, Penelope Cruz.