Film review: Parallel Mothers by Pedro Almodóvar
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- Published on Tuesday, 31 May 2022 15:30
- Last Updated on 01 June 2022
- Monica Costa
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Parallel Mothers is Almodóvar’s 22nd feature film and was nominated for the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language and the Academy Award® for Best Actress (Penelope Cruz) and for Best Original Score (Alberto Iglesias).
Writer/Director Pedro Almodóvar is one of Spain’s most celebrated filmmakers with numerous accolades to his name including an Academy Award®, four BAFTAs, numerous Goyas and over 100 further wins and nominations. His credits include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother, Volver, Pain and Glory, and most recently The human voice.
Two women, Janis and Ana, coincide in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. Both are single and became pregnant by accident. Janis, middle-aged stylish photographer in her late 30s, doesn’t regret it and she is exultant. The other, Ana, a serious-looking teenager with a troubled family background, is scared, repentant and traumatised. Janis tries to encourage her while they move like sleepwalkers along the hospital corridors. The few words they exchange in those hours will create a very close link between the two, which by chance develops and complicates, and changes their lives in a decisive way.
Parallel Mothers is no different and shows Almodóvar’s Muse Penélope Cruz in a mature role as a less young mother going through the challenges of motherhood as a single parent including lots of unexpected twists and turns.
Another aspect of Almodóvar’s movies that makes me want to go back to them quite regularly is the portrayal of powerful women. Pedro Almodóvar clearly loves women. No other film director has ever portrayed women in such a prominent way. Women have starring roles in practically all of his films, and, even in those where they’re not front and centre (Talk to Her and Live Flesh), they are the still pivotal roles within the narrative. Women are always driving men to express and their emotions and take actions based on deep feelings.
In Parallel Mothers, two women’s maternal stories are at centre stage and we get to follow their respective tragedies and heartbreaks, their bonding together that makes them stronger and their overcoming of real struggles.
Almodóvar’s narrative is never obvious. He never repeats himself and his stories are undefinable. Even in Parallel Mothers, which at first appears like a ‘plain’ movie for Almodóvar’s standards, we soon realise that there will be a powerful twist. Always unexpected.
What I also love about Almodóvar is his compassion, forgiveness and empathy to even the worst people as well as to people who have to face tough decisions. In Parallel Mothers, Janis is faced with painful ethical choices. Even when we realise the awful nature of what she has done, we are shown the character’s inner turmoil and we naturally forgive her mental state. This empathy that drives Almodóvar is what makes his films so compelling, heartbreaking and tragic.
There are lot of emotions in this movie. The two heavily pregnant women bond at the hospital over their decision to be single mothers. The father of Janis’s child, Arturo (Israel Elejalde), is an anthropologist who works with the historical unit formed under Spain’s historical memory law, tracing some of the 100,000 citizens who went “missing” during the Spanish Civil War and the brutal reign of Francisco Franco and who were buried in unmarked mass graves. Janis believes that her great-grandfather was one such victim. This is the part of the narrative that runs in parallel and has little connection to the story of the two mothers. The parallelism between the narratives is the concept that the mother-child bond is so strong that can stand the toughest times, including fascism. Almodóvar adds this political dimension to showcase that similarly to these two women going through motherhood together, sustaining our families through generations, is what gives us the motivation to live.
As a mother, what I found extremely compelling about Parallel Mothers is the depiction of motherhood as a huge burden mixed with anxiety and passion for your creature. This movie perfectly captures the drama of being a mother. Two new mothers find the strength for going through their ordeal in each other.
London Mums’ rating: 8/10
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums