Tag Archives: Pedro Almodóvar

Parallel Mothers (2021) Review

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Parallel Mothers

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes
Cast:
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Pain and Glory (2019) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use & nudity
Cast:
Antonio Banderas as Salvador Mallo
Penélope Cruz as Jacinta Mallo
Raúl Arévalo as Salvador’s father
Leonardo Sbaraglia as Federico
Asier Etxeandia as Alberto Crespo
Nora Navas as Mercedes
Julieta Serrano as Jacinta Mallo (old age)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar

The protagonist of “Pain and Glory” (Antonio Banderas) was at the decline of his career. The man involuntarily looks back into the past, and a stream of vivid memories falls upon him. He recalls such moments from his youth as tender feelings for his mother, love and separation, the search for happiness and success. All this leads the master of cinema to important thoughts about life and art, because this is the most important thing for him.

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I heard about Pain and Glory a little bit beforehand, mainly that Antonio Banderas won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance in it. Otherwise I didn’t really know much about the movie, aside from hearing some people say that it was good. Indeed Banderas is great and lived up to all the praise, but the movie itself was also pretty good on it’s own, definitely worth a watch.

Pain and Glory is a very contemplative movie as it’s about Antonio Banderas’s character looking back at his life. Now I don’t know much about the writer/director, but the story does feel very personal to him (especially given that the protagonist is a director and all that), and it certainly comes across throughout the entire runtime. Thankfully there is some self awareness at the same time, and indeed the movie has its light hearted moments. Pain and Glory is very slow and meditative. The first half took a while for the movie to really hook me. Not say that it was boring or anything, it was decent but I wasn’t invested quite yet. Also while the flashbacks to when main character Salvador was younger were necessary and played a part later in the story, it took me out of the movie more than anything. With that said, when it came to the flashbacks in the second half, I thought they really worked and added a lot. In fact it was the second half that made the movie work for me, from that halfway point that’s where it really picked up. Admittedly, I can’t tell whether it’s truly because the second half is better or if the movie has grown on me just thinking about it, maybe a little bit of both. Without revealing anything, the ending for Pain and Glory is absolutely perfect, and I couldn’t think of a better way of concluding the story.

I have seen Antonio Banderas in a fair number of things and he’s generally been quite good, but admittedly haven’t seen him in a lot. However a lot of people are touting this as a career best from him, and looking at his performance here, I can definitely believe that. This movie entirely surrounds his character looking back at his life and Banderas plays his part beautifully. The supporting cast were also good and add quite a lot in their comparatively smaller screentime. The standouts were the significant people in Salvador’s life, like Penelope Cruz and Julieta Serrano as the younger and older versions of Banderas’s mother, as well as Leonardo Sbaraglia in his 2 scenes.

This is the first film I’ve seen from director Pedro Almodóvar, and from his work on Pain and Glory, I’d definitely like to see more of his movies. Its wonderfully shot, the cinematography is very vibrant and warm, and fitted very well with the movie. Overall it’s a very well directed and put together movie.

Pain and Glory is an emotional, personal and intimate movie, very well written and directed by Almodovar and with an excellent lead performance from Antonio Banderas. By the second half of the movie I was fully invested in this story. It really is a movie that grows on you the more you think about it. I think it’s worth seeing for Banderas’s great performance at the very least.