Leo Macias, played by a vivifying Marisa Paredes, cannot accept her marriage is dead. Unable to write the romance novels she churned out under the pseudonym Amanda Gris, she takes a job as a book reviewer with newspaperman Angel (Juan Echanove). Not knowing she is Gris, Angel assigns her to review her own book. He also falls in love with her but she cannot return his love, since she still hopes her husband would return to her. When her husband Paco (Imanol Arias) kills all hope, she is so depressed that she attempts suicide, and then leaves Madrid with her mother to return to the latter's village. Weaving with the village women, Leo may recuperate but her desire for life is only rekindled when she finds out that her anti-romantic novel she trashed helped to fund a flamenco dance production put up by the son of her cook. So art saves her finally, saves her for life.
A comment on imdb credited this film with Almodover's turn from formless farces to rich melodramas. The Flower of My Secret is small compared to his later films, but it has a sweet perfection that is very watchable. In this film he assembles some of the themes, situations and characters that dominate the later work. Leo is one of a string of Almodovan women, strong but driven to near-madness. The power of sisterhood is depicted not only through the engaging relationship between Leo and her uglier and less successful sister, but also through the community of village women. Leo's relationship with her mother would become the main theme of the later film Volver, just as the trashed novel would give that film its plot trigger.
The Flower opens with an educational video teaching student doctors how to break bad news to relatives in denial. The film-within-a-film device is one of Almodovar's favorites. The medical analogy reminds me of Talk to Her, set mostly in a hospital, focused on women in coma. The dance production that revives Leo's hope for life also looks forward to the dance piece that opens Talk to Her. Here dance is hopeful--the cook returns in triumph to the stage, her son puts up the production of his dreams--but dance in Talk to Her is despairing and obsessive. That change speaks, perhaps, of a director's vision deepening.