Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: Sex scenes
Penélope Cruz as Janis Martínez Moreno
Milena Smit as Ana Manso Ferreras
Israel Elejalde as Arturo
Aitana Sánchez-Gijón as Teresa Ferreras
Julieta Serrano as Brígida
Rossy de Palma as Elena
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Two single women meet in a hospital room where they are both going to give birth. One is middle aged and doesn’t regret it, while the other is adolescent and scared. The two women form a strong bond with one another as they both confront motherhood.
There were a couple things about Parallel Mothers that I heard about which made me want to watch it. First of all, it was getting some awards attention, especially towards Penelope Cruz in the lead role. Second of all, it was the new movie from Pedro Almodóvar. I admit I haven’t seen many of his movies, but I did watch Pain and Glory which was great and so I was interested to see more from him. Parallel Mothers did not disappoint.
The screenplay is brilliant and smartly handled. Looking at the plot, I think Parallel Mothers is worth going into blind and not knowing much about beyond the premise. It is a real treat of a drama, it is engaging and keeps you intrigued for the entire runtime. It does have its twists, and turns and with the shocking revelations it easily could’ve been a very contrived soap opera. However, it actually felt authentic and genuine, the characters feel real and relatable and are exposed to complicated life issues. The premise of single mothers giving birth at the same time is intriguing, and I was invested for that plotline following the two mothers as played by Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit. It is a look into motherhood, relationships, family and grief, and approaches the subject matters with great honesty and empathy. There is one aspect that might take some people out of the viewing experience and that’s a notable subplot involving family history with the Spanish Civil War. Without going into too much depth with the specific plotline, I will say that it is to do with Penelope Cruz’s character and plays a notable part of the movie, while not being the main focus. Initially it seemed to distract from the main storyline of the parallel mothers, but by the end I thought it worked. I do like that these storylines played alongside each other, they’re very different but I liked the way they were brought together in the end.
The acting is another strong aspect of the movie. Penelope Cruz is tremendous as the lead character, giving such a layered performance, displaying and jumping between a wide range of emotions. She conveys her love, joy, frustrations and feelings of devastation incredibly well, and is very believable in her part. It’s at the very least one of her all-time best performances. Equally great is the other main character as played by newcomer Milena Smit, who impresses alongside Cruz. She portrays the comparatively more reserved and insecure parallel mother in a terrific way. It’s a great and mature performance which also deserves a lot of praise. The dynamic between Cruz and Smith is great, the two characters are polar opposites to each other, but the bond shared between the two is heartfelt and we really feel the connection. It’s helped by the realistic chemistry between the two actresses, every moment of them on screen felt believable. The other actors of the cast like Israel Elajalde and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón also play their parts well.
Pedro Almodóvar directs this movie exceptionally, with this and Pain and Glory, I really want to watch through his filmography. Visually, the film is very well captured, framed and filmed, with a great use of colour, particularly with the set design and costumes. Alberto Iglesias’s score is also great, setting the right tones and moods, and is a constant presence throughout the film.
Parallel Mothers is an engaging, emotionally charged and layered drama that’s excellently written and directed, and has some fantastic performances, especially from Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit. It is one of my favourite movies of 2021, and it is well worth checking out.
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