Parallel Mothers (c) Sony Pictures Classics
Film: Parallel Mothers
Premise: Janis (Penelope Cruz) is a successful photographer in Spain, but her life project is to get a plot of land, which she believes holds the remains of her great grandfather and others who were taken during the Spanish Civil War but were never seen again. She meets an excavator named Arturo (Isreal Elejalde) and after a night together, she becomes pregnant. Arturo is married so Janis decides to have the baby on her own. In the hospital, she shares a room with a young girl named Ana (Milena Smit), who is also about to have a baby. The two bond at the hospital and after giving birth. Ana’s backstory includes divorced parents who used her as a pawn for their own gains, and the father of Ana’s baby also holds dark secrets. As their friendship grows, Janis also must face the upcoming excavation of the grave and how important the present is informed by the sorrows of the past.
My Take: Pedro Almodóvar had great success with his last movie, 2019’s “Pain and Glory,” with his muse Antonio Banderas as his lead. Almodóvar and Banderas were nominated for Oscars for International Feature and Best Actor respectively. So, it would only make sense that he would do the same with another muse, Penelope Cruz, for his follow-up, and sure enough, lightning has struck twice. Both movies are about successful artists who have to deal with the past and how to proceed with the future, and while this movie may be a soapier melodrama than “Pain and Glory,” it is also Almodóvar’s first film to deal with the politics and history of Spain in such an overt way. The main plot involves a lot of coincidences and odd choices on behalf of all the characters, and Alberto Iglesias’ score never lets up on the Hitchcockian references. But when all is revealed, the film turns out to be a powerful reminder that the past will always have ramifications to any family’s future.
VIP: Penelope Cruz. The Oscar-winning actress has always had the best roles when working with Almodóvar, especially “All About My Mother” and “Volver,” and this one is her most heartbreaking and powerful. Her journey may seem to take her through improbable situations, but Cruz grounds Janis’s motives and actions, so you side with and against her in the same scene. That this triumph is a result of her ongoing relationship with Almodóvar is almost predestined.
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