Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.

  • Sexually adventurous Cristina and her friend Vicky, who is bright but cautious, holiday in Barcelona where they meet the celebrated and wholly seductive painter, Juan Antonio. Vicky is not about to dive into a sexual adventure being committed to her forthcoming marriage. But Cristina is immediately captivated by Juan Antonio's free spirit and his romantic allure is enhanced when she hears the delicious details of his divorce from fellow artist, the tempestuous Maria Elena.

  • The mysteries of the heart. Two children of privilege, friends alike except in how they see love, summer in Barcelona. Vicky is a grad student in Catalan studies, engaged to a safe man; Cristina is finding herself, knowing that safety is not what she wants. Juan Antonio, an artist rumored to have a violent marriage behind him, invites them to spend a weekend with him. They accept. As the summer goes on, their time with Juan Antonio challenges Vicky's assumptions about who she is and suggests to Christina that she may have found herself. Into the mix come Juan Antonio's volatile ex-wife and Vicky's reliable fiancé. Amidst the passion of Barcelona, can there be resolution?

  • New York friends Vicky and Cristina are spending the summer in Barcelona. One of their differences in life is the type of man to who they are attracted. For Cristina, she feels that being hurt in the search for love - which usually means being attracted to dangerous men - is what is required to find that true passion. Vicky, on the other hand, needs a certain grounding in love, which usually equates itself to being attracted to stable, safe men. Vicky is engaged to stable, safe Doug, the two who plan to get married in the fall after Vicky's return to New York. At an art showing in Barcelona, Cristina is immediately attracted to Juan Antonio, an artist she sees across the room. That attraction is strengthened when he later approaches Vicky and Cristina together, proposing they go away together to Oviedo for the weekend, which would include him having sex with both. Despite no guarantees of sex, Cristina wants to go, with a reluctant Vicky, who is incredulous to Juan Antonio's offer, tagging along. When Vicky is forced to spend some extended time alone with Juan Antonio that weekend, she finds that she too is beginning to have strong romantic feelings for him, which she doesn't tell Cristina. Vicky has to figure out what to do about her feelings, especially as Doug suggests coming to Barcelona himself so that they can get married there, and as Judy, the friend with who Vicky and Cristina are staying, makes a confession. Conversely, Cristina's pursuit of romance with Juan Antonio is complicated by the arrival of Maria Elena, Juan Antonio's artist ex-wife, whose relationship with Juan Antonio was characterized by extreme passion which often crossed the line into violence.

  • Soon-to-be-married Vicky, a cerebral and cautious young major in Catalan studies and Cristina, her adventurous and carefree best friend, decide to spend summer in beautiful Barcelona. There, at an art gallery exhibition, the friends will fall for the same guy, Juan Antonio, an eccentric and seductive abstract painter known for his scandalous divorce with the tempestuous, and still very much in love with him, Maria Elena. But when Vicky and Cristina join Juan Antonio on a weekend in his hometown, the perplexities of passion and desire will drag everyone in a volatile, yet enticing ménage à quatre.

  • Conventional Vicky, who is engaged to Doug, travels to Barcelona to spend her summer holidays at the home of their parent's friends, Judy and Mark Nash, with her unconventional and open-minded friend, Cristina. While in a restaurant, the divorced painter Juan Antonio Gonzalo flirts and invites them to travel to Oviedo with him, and also to go to bed with him. The reluctant Vicky does not accept the invitation but Cristina agrees. Once in Oviedo, Cristina develops an ulcer so Vicky goes sightseeing alone with Juan Antonio. Vicky eventually falls in love with Juan Antonio and has sex with him. However, back in Barcelona, she does not say anything to her friend and Cristina moves into Juan Antonio's house, while Vicky marries Doug. When the unstable former wife of Juan Antonio, Maria Elena, overdoses, the painter brings her to his house and their troubled relationship harmonizes with the presence of Cristina.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlet Johansson) visit Barcelona for the summer, staying with Vicky's relative Judy (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband Mark (Kevin Dunn). A Narrator (voice of Christopher Evan Welch), present throughout the film, describes the two friends: Vicky is practical and mainstream in her approach to love and commitment, and is engaged to the reliable yet even-more-mainstream Doug (Chris Messina). She is in Barcelona doing research for her masters in Catalan Identity, a project spawned by her love of the works of Gaudí and Miro, and is emotionally moved by Spanish guitar. Cristina, on the other hand, is spontaneous and unsure of what she wants in life. She is just out of a relationship and wants to get over the bad time she had making a 12-minute film about love.

    At an art exhibition, they notice artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Cristina is impressed with him at first sight, and grows intrigued when Judy and Mark tell the girls that he had a violent relationship with his ex-wife, María Elena (Penélope Cruz). Later that night, the pair notice him across the room at a restaurant. He and Cristina exchange glances, and he approaches their table, asks Cristina her eye color, and abruptly invites them to accompany him to Oviedo, where they will sight-see, drink wine and, hopefully, make love. While Cristina accepts at once, Vicky is skeptical and refuses. She is eventually convinced, and the pair accompany Juan Antonio to Oviedo in his friend's private plane during a storm.

    In Oviedo, after some sight-seeing and a good deal of wine, Juan Antonio invites both women to his bedroom. While Vicky refuses to sleep with him, Cristina agrees, but suddenly falls ill with an ulcer and food poisoning. For the remainder of the weekend, Vicky and Juan Antonio are compelled to sight-see alone. During their jaunts, he tells her about his ex-wife and their passionate yet violent relationship. After more wine over dinner and a guitar concert in a park, Vicky succumbs to Juan's charms and the two make love.

    The next day, Juan takes them back to Barcelona. Feeling guilty, Vicky does not confess the incident to Cristina, and the two begin to grow apart, Vicky throwing herself into her research and Cristina experimenting with photography and poetry. Juan Antonio calls Cristina back, and they begin to date. Doug suddenly suggests to Vicky that they get married in Spain in a civil ceremony, assuring her that their blowout wedding will still take place as scheculed in the States. She agrees, with some misgivings, and he flies to Barcelona from New York.

    Cristina and Juan Antonio grow closer and Cristina moves in with him. One night, Juan Antonio receives a call that María Elena has attempted to kill herself. Since she has nowhere else to go, he brings her home, and she moves into the guest room. Though initially María Elena distrusts Cristina, she soon develops a liking for her and encourages her photography, which improves as a result.

    Cristina soon realizes that the ex-spouses are still in love, and María Elena confides that their relationship was always loving yet 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 indulge in a consensual sexual triangle, as Cristina begins making love to María Elena as well. Cristina discloses the events of her life to Vicky, who appears secretly jealous of her friend's freedom, 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 spies Judy cheating on myopic Mark, yet understands why Judy can't leave her husband, and confides in the older woman. Judy, who sees Vicky as a younger version of herself, and in a vicariously motivated move, takes it upon herself to "make Vicky and Juan Antonio happen". Meanwhile, Cristina realizes that she can't live in a threesome for the long term, and announces that she's leaving Juan Antonio and María Elena. Maria Elena does not take the news well and breaks down. Needing out, Cristina goes to France to spend the last week of her summer. With their "missing link" gone, Juan Antonio and María Elena break up once again.

    In a final attempt to pair up Juan Antonio and Vicky, Judy arranges for their "chance" meeting at a party. Juan Antonio begs Vicky to to meet him the next day, her last day in Spain. After lying to Doug and against her better judgement, Vicky goes to Juan's home for lunch, after which Juan tries to seduce her again. She is about to succumb when María Elena enters with a gun and begins firing wildly. As Juan Antonio takes the gun away from the hysterical Maria, it accidentally fires, shooting Vicky in the wrist. Vicky screams at them both, calling them insane, and insisting that she could never live like this, leaves.

    When Cristina returns from France, Vicky confesses the entire story to her, while Doug is never told the true version of events. As the three return to the US, Vicky goes back to her mainstream life and Cristina remains where she began, not knowing what she wants, but knowing what she doesn't want. As Vicky chooses to live her planned, perceived ideal life and Cristina chooses to live with no plans for life, they end where they began.

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