Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a 2008 romance comedy-drama film written and directed by Woody Allen. The film stars Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall. The plot centers on two American women, Vicky and Cristina, spending a summer in Barcelona, where they meet an artist who is attracted to both of them while still enamored of his mentally and emotionally unstable ex-wife María Elena. The film was shot in Avilés, Barcelona, and Oviedo, and was Allen's fourth consecutive film shot outside of the United States. The film premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, then received a rolling worldwide general release that started on August 15, 2008 in the U.S., and continued in various countries each month until the June 2009 release in Japan.
Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) visit Barcelona for the summer, staying with Vicky's distant relative Judy (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband, Mark Nash (Kevin Dunn). A narrator (Christopher Evan Welch), present throughout the film, describes the two friends: Vicky is practical and traditional in her approach to love and commitment, and is engaged to the reliable Doug (Chris Messina). She is in Barcelona getting her masters in "Catalan identity". Cristina, on the other hand, is a nonconformist, spontaneous but unsure of what she wants from life or love. At an art exhibition, they notice the artist Juan Antonio Gonzalo (Javier Bardem). Cristina is impressed with him at first sight, and grows intrigued when Judy and Mark tell the girls that the artist has suffered a publicly violent relationship with his ex-wife. Later that night, the girls notice him across the room in a restaurant. He approaches their table to invite them to join him for the weekend in the city of Oviedo, in the small plane he flies himself, for sight-seeing, drinking wine, and (Juan Antonio hopes) sex. Cristina accepts the brazen offer almost at once, but Vicky refuses, strongly resenting his assumption that the two of them would agree to go to bed with him after less than five minutes' acquaintance. She eventually decides to accompany her friend anyway, mainly as she says "to protect Cristina from making a fatal mistake". At the end of their first day, Juan Antonio asks both women to come to his room. Vicky refuses, but Cristina agrees, though she falls ill before any love making happens. For the remainder of the weekend, Vicky and Juan Antonio are forced together while Cristina recuperates. During their trip, he tells her about his ex-wife and his tumultuous relationship with her and takes her to visit his father, an old poet, making Vicky change her negative first impression of him. Late at night, the very drunk duo attends a Spanish guitar concert, and Vicky is captivated by Spanish guitar. Afterwards, Juan Antonio lets her know he thinks she's beautiful, and they eventually make love beneath a tree on the way home. The next day, Juan takes them back to Barcelona. Vicky, feeling guilty, does not mention the incident to Cristina, and the two begin to grow apart, Vicky throwing herself into her Catalan culture studies and Cristina taking up photography. Soon Juan Antonio is dating Cristina. Meanwhile, Doug unexpectedly telephones Vicky, suggesting that they get married in Spain. She agrees, with unspoken misgivings, and he flies to meet her. Cristina and Juan Antonio grow closer and move in together. One night, Cristina and Juan Antonio are woken up by a call, learning that Juan's ex-wife María Elena (Penélope Cruz) has attempted to kill herself. Since she has nowhere else to go, Juan Antonio brings her home, and she moves into the guest room. Though initially María Elena distrusts Cristina, she soon grows fond of her and her photography. Cristina soon realizes that the ex-spouses are still in love, and María Elena confides that their relationship was always loving but unstable because they were missing something, a mystery element neither of them figured out. María Elena now suggests that the missing link is in fact, Cristina, and the three become polyamorous. Cristina discloses the events of her life to Vicky, who appears secretly jealous of her friend's relationship with Juan Antonio, and to Doug, who disapproves. As the summer winds to a close, Vicky realizes that she is unsatisfied in her married life, and is still attracted to Juan Antonio. She learns that Judy is also unhappy in her marriage, and confides in the older woman. Judy, who sees Vicky as a younger version of herself, decides to bring Juan Antonio and Vicky together. Vicky, however, tries to object as she believes that Judy, through Vicky, is "trying to rewrite" her own history. Meanwhile, Cristina becomes restless and announces she is leaving Juan Antonio and María Elena. Maria does not take the news well and breaks down. Cristina spends the last weeks of the summer in France. With their "missing link" gone, Juan Antonio and María Elena break up again. Attempting to pair up Juan Antonio and Vicky, Judy arranges for them both to be at a party. Juan Antonio begs Vicky to meet him the next day. After lying to Doug, Vicky, against her better judgment, goes to Juan's home for lunch, after which Juan tries to seduce her again. She is at the point of consenting when María Elena bursts in with a gun and begins firing wildly. As Juan Antonio tries to calm his sobbing wife, he accidentally shoots Vicky in the hand, wounding her slightly. Vicky shouts at both of them, saying they are insane and she could never live like this, and leaves. When Cristina returns from France, Vicky confesses the entire story to her. Cristina says she never knew that Vicky felt that way about Juan Antonio, and she (Cristina) wishes she could have helped her. Doug never learns what truly happened. As the three Americans return home, Vicky goes back to her married life and Cristina remains where she started, knowing only what she doesn't want. Since Vicky chooses to live her rigidly planned ("perfect") life, and Cristina chooses to live without making predetermined plans, they end where they began.