Strange Way of Life

Strange Way of Life Movie Review

“Strange Way of Life” is a short film, with a major emphasis on the short part. This ‘Western’ themed slice-of-life drama blows in like a desert breeze, but lasts for less than an hour. It is from a celebrated director, with two fantastically talented actors in the lead roles. But the abbreviated story and screen time makes for a ‘strange way’ to utilize all of this talent.



The Western theme starts right at the beginning, with a man on horseback riding through the rough terrain. A sad guitar plays in the background, as a sad song is sung by a sad man. In the town of Bitter Creek, the mournful guitar player is singing a sad Spanish song. The man on horseback, named Silva (played by Pedro Pascal), rides into town and stops at the Sherriff’s office.


Earlier inside the office, the man in charge, Sheriff Jake (played by Ethan Hawke), was talking with the local undertaker. Jake was getting arrangements made for the burial of his brother’s wife. She had been brutally beaten and killed by a guy with a Spanish accent and limp. Sheriff Jake knows exactly who that guy is, and he intends on bringing him in. Or that man will die attempting to flee.


Silva drops into the office to say hello. Silva and Jake had once worked together, first as farm hands, and then as hired guns. That was 25 years ago, and they had not seen each other since. Down in Mexico, where they rode together a long, long time ago, is just miles away — across the nearby border. Silva says he was coming into town for medical help. Jake thinks he knows the real reason.


Jake invites Silva to his house for dinner. They eat dinner and drink wine. Jake asks if the real reason that Silva has come to see him was to try and talk Jake out of going after that outlaw. The person who murdered his sister-in-law was Silva’s son. Silva wants Jake to give his son another chance, yes. But he is also here to see Jake.


Silva asks Jake if he remembers those old times in Mexico. (He pronounces it ‘Meh-hee-Ko’.) You see, Jake and Silva did work as farm hands for a short time. And they did get jobs as bounty hunters – going after cattle rustlers and thieves. They were known for being hired guns with a deadly aim. But they also shared another secret.


Silva and Jake had a torrid love affair, back 25 years ago. They both recall a time when they were out to impress some three young senoritas at a ranch. They both shot holes in a leather container of fine red wine. The wine spilled out and all five of them got all the fruity goodness gushing like a fountain onto the lithe young bodies. The senoritas had some nasty ideas about what Jake and Silva were going to do to them.


But they were flummoxed when they saw Jake and Silva going for the smoochies on each other. They soon found they were like spare tires for a two-wheeled motorcycle. They left to head over the saloon, to find some other guys they could impress. These two were definitely not interested in them. Silva and Jake had the major hots going on, and they know only one thing could resolve that.


But that was a long, long time ago. Silva had left and was no longer a part of Jake’s life any more. But now Silva was back, and after a bottle of wine — the old feelings stirred again. The next morning, Silva again tried to talk to Jake about giving his son a chance to live a free man. Jake told Silva to get out, and not to come back.


Silva went on his way, and his heading was straight over to the small ranch were his son was living. Jake has figured that this would be the case. So, he got his rifle from the Sheriff’s office, and got his horse. Jake’s plan was to follow the tracks of Silva, because he knew that his one-time lover would show him how to get to find his son.


Silva had found the hidden ranch where his son was staying. His son, Joe (played by George Steane), was surprised to see Silva. He did not think his father would come out to see him, after what he had done. But Silva was there to plead with Joe to get away, and flee to ‘Meh-hee-Ko’. But when they come out of the ranch house, Jake is waiting there for them.


Silva and Joe are confronted by Jake, and guns are drawn. But what will happen, and who will wind up shot or dead? Will anyone get away? Will anyone end up like how Silva had dreamed about 25 years ago — that Silva and Jake could end up at a ranch, being lovers and friends tending to the ranch — and tending to each other…


“Strange Way of Life” was written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. All of his many previous movie have been in Spanish (his native language). Many have starred Penélope Cruz. These films have always had critical acclaim. This is one of only two movies that he has made in English. The other one is called “The Human Voice” (made in 2020 and starring Tilda Swinton). That movie was also a short film (about 30 minutes).


The acting of Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal is very strong. It is shame they have been given only mere shadows of an actual role that they could play. It must be frustrating to be given a very provocative role, and then have so little that can done with that role. English is not the native tongue of Pedro Almodóvar. Since he is the writer, there are times that dialog flows in awkward phases.


The most other unusual aspect is that most of the production and financing was by Yves Saint Laurent. That is a high-end fashion design store, not known for its experience in the movie industry. Jake and Silva, plus all the extras, have the most fabulous clothes and costumes. This almost at times turns out to be a high-art designer fashion commercial.


“Strange Way of Life” is actually a strange way to make a movie – get two actors very big on talent together for a very short film — or perhaps a very extended fashion shoot.


Strange Way of Life

Written and Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Pedro Pascal, George Steane
Cinematography: José Luis Alcaine
Edited by: Teresa Font
Music by: Alberto Iglesias
Distributed by: BTeam Pictures
Release date: October 6, 2023
Length: 31 minutes
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Drama, Short Film, Western


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

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