Though the kinky characters and aberrant social behavior common to the works of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar are very evident in his Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the film is at heart a door-slamming farce in the grand tradition. The tiny apartment of pregnant actress Carmen Maura is the “Grand Central Station” setpiece for this dizzying tale. Distraught over her recent breakup with her lover, Carmen prepares to overdose on sleeping pills, which she blends into a gazpacho so they’ll go down easier. She is diverted from her suicide by her best friend Maria Barranco, a fugitive from justice (her boy friend is a Shi’Ite terrorist) who needs a place to stay. Later, when Carmen’s apartment is empty, her ex-lover’s grown son (Antonio Banderas) comes to the apartment with his fiance (Rossy de Palma) in answer to Carmen’s “room to let” newspaper ad. The wife inadvertently ingests Carmen’s “pill sauce,” and as she blissfully snoozes, the husband inaugurates an affair with Carmen’s friend Barranco.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Spanish: Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios) is a 1988 Spanish comedy film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas. The film that brought Almodóvar to widespread international attention, it was nominated for the 1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign-language film, and won five Goya Awards including Best Film and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Maura. The actual title refers in Spanish to “un ataque de nervios” which is not actually well translated by “nervous breakdown”. “Ataques de nervios” are culture-bound psychological phenomena during which the individual, most often female, displays dramatic outpouring of negative emotions, bodily gestures, occasional falling to the ground, and fainting, often in response to receiving disturbing news or witnessing or participating in an upsetting event.