Movie review: Parallel Mothers

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Parallel MothersParallel Mothers is the new movie by director/writer Pedro Almodóvar. Janis (Penélope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit) are two single women sharing a hospital room where they are each going to give birth. Though both pregnancies were unintended, the 40ish Janis is excited. Ana, a teenager, conversely, is terrified and feels uncertain.

They bond, and, after a time, end up keeping in touch. Each has a complicating person in her life. For Ana, it’s her actress-mother Teresa (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón). She is torn between her daughter and her irregular career.

Janis is negotiating with Arturo (Israel Elejalde), who is helping her with historical family trauma, unearthing the remains of her great-grandfather, who was “disappeared” by rebels affiliated with Franco. Oh, and he’s the father of her child.

Janis is a successful photographer for a magazine. But as a new mom, she has to juggle work and motherhood. At one point, a certain important plot point became obvious to me. I guessed how the storyline would then play out, but I was very wrong.

The reign in Spain

How does Almodóvar deal with the complications in both women’s lives? Deftly, in an almost Solomonic manner, I think. More than one reviewer has pointed to the director’s “delirious use of color, his ecstatic aesthetic and a sense of the theatrical.” Parallel Mothers is all about truth (and the suppression of same) and passion and what family means and dealing with history v. living in the present.

Cruz and Almodóvar have collaborated in seven films. I know I’ve seen at least two others, All About My Mother and Volver. This one is the most fully realized, IMO.

Penélope Cruz is, as most critics  noted, luminescent. One of them coveted Janis’ red sweater. Ms. Cruz has rightly been nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Milena Smit, a movie newcomer, performs amazingly well.

The movie is also nominated for an Academy Award for Alberto Iglesias in the category Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score). Recommended. Oh, yeah, the film is subtitled. Here is the trailer.

My wife and I saw this on a date night at Landmark’s Spectrum Theatre in Albany, alas, in its final week.

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