¿QUÉ HE HECHO YO PARA MERECER ESTO!!
What have i done to deserve this? (1984)
Pedro Almodóvar's ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! remains one of his most critically appreciated films in Spain, perceived as belonging to two privileged traditions within Spanish cinema: social realism and costumbrismo. Both at the time and in more recent accounts, Spanish critics focused on the film as a documentary on rural migration to the city and the peculiarities and interaction among the members of the working-class family who are the central protagonists, thus, as usual when dealing with Almodóvar, demonstrating their lack of sense of irony and a refusal to engage with camp.
Gloria (Carmen Maura) is a bitter Madrid housewife who is going through a particularly rough patch because of lack of money, her husband's violent, harsh temper, and too much work. When she attempts sex in the shower with one of the customers at the gym where she works as a cleaner, he turns out to be impotent. She lives with her husband, her mother-in-law, and her two sons in a huge ugly building next to a motorway. The husband (Ángel de Andrés López), a taxi driver who remembers fondly an old love, is constantly grumpy and cannot satisfy her sexually. Her only support is Cristal (Verónica Forqué), a cheerful gold-hearted prostitute who lives next door. One day, after a particularly difficult argument with her husband, she kills him accidentally with a ham bone, and a police investigation ensues. Grim as it sounds, ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! is a very funny film that actually sends up the conventions of melodrama and social realism. Although it is true that Almodóvar draws on Spanish traditions, he also was inspired by Hollywood women's films centered on troubled housewives, and there is an element of camp in his reconstructions of TV programs. On another level, it is a story of characters lost in an alien background, which was closer to his own experience than acknowledged: Gloria's cinephile and artistically gifted younger son is a version of Almodóvar himself as a child, and the ending, in which the boy saves his mother from suicide, is a deeply felt fantasy.
The film was Almodóvar's most accomplished effort so far. His original camera movements and framings (the shots from inside electric appliances that display Gloria surrounded by technology) were becoming more inventive and more narratively relevant. The film also was blessed with outstanding performances by Maura, Forqué, and Chus Lampreave.
Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira