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Alex Reynolds film review: PARALLEL MOTHERS

Alex Reynolds film review: PARALLEL MOTHERS

Alex Reynolds

Spanish film maker Pedro Almodovar is many things; director, screenwriter, producer, and former actor. His creative vision behind the camera has earned him worldwide cinematic plaudits. Almodovar’s films make a personal connection to viewers with melodramatic narratives that reveal irreverent humour, are brightly coloured, borrow from popular culture, and, like life itself, are complex. Desire, passion, family, and identity form a prime collective in the maestro’s films, Almodóvar achieved international recognition for his black comedy-drama film ”Women On the Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown” (1988), Oscar nominated in the the best foreign language category.

The ubiquitous Almodovar, and actress Penelope Cruz, formed a creative bond teaming on seven films, beginning in 1992, which has elevated her career, and his reputation as an imaginative auteur. Cruz, who seems attached as a muse to Almodovar says, “It’s hard to explain wihout sounding weird, but we know each other, we can feel each other.”

Their latest colaboration brings a taut drama to the screen. “Parallel Mothers” unfolds in a hospital room where two women are waiting to give birth. Janis (Penelope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit) are opposites in life. Both are single with unplanned pregnancies, Janis, approaching 40, is ecstatic about having her baby. She never expected in her life she’d ever become a mother, while Ana. an adolescent, alarmed by her situation, is remorseful and deeply troubled.

The two women begin to bond as Janis urges encouragement creating a close link which ultimately leads to a barrier in their relationship changing their lives in a decisive way. It’s a situation created by Ana’s selfish mother Teresa who confesses to lacking any maternal instinct which feeds into Ana’s motherhood anxiety.

Almodovar explores truths of ancestors and descendants as well as the connection to the identity and intimate maternal passionate realities of three very different mothers: Janis (defensive about a terrible secret), Ana, and her mother. In his film career, the director has avoided referencing the country’s troubled history of his youth (Franco’s iron oppression, and the Spanish civil war). In “Parallel Mothers,” Almodovar digs up the past.

Janis has a flourishing career as a magazine photographer who shoots a variety of individuals with unusual careers. Intrigued by archeologist Arturo (Israel Elejalde), she asks for assistance in exhuming her great-grandfather, who, along with other long-buried victims of Franco’s fascist regime, is buried in a mass grave outside her hometown. This leads to an affair resulting in her pregnancy.

Time passes, both women are raising daughters, and here Almodovar adds a plot twisting zinger. He highlights the powerful emotions linked to motherhood, letting them play out to full

augmentation on the big screen. He avoids melodrama bolstered by terrific dramatics from Cruz. Talk in the industry is Cruz has never given a better performance.The relatively unknown Smit keeps pace, feeding off her acting colleague’s abundant talent. The two actresses, from different generations, keep their emotions tightly wound up, only to explode when their hearts cannot bear the pain.

Credit Almodovar, as writer and director, to elevating what could have been soap opera to high art. “Parallel Mothers” (in theatres and various platforms), spotlights motherhood and the difficulties of parenthood. One could think of it as a documentary, but no, Almodovar has crafted a motion picture of deep and gentle love.

In addition to the adulation from critics, (and a bouquet from this writer), Cruz is flying high with a best actress Oscar nomination for “Parallel Mothers” at the Academy Award ceremonies coming up March 27. Career honors were bestowed in December by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Miami Film Festival will recognize her cinema achievements with the Precious Gem Award during its upcoming 2022 edition

“Parallel Mothers” reflects a spirit that’s personal, shining a light on our hopes, fears, solidarity and the importance of legacy. Credit director and star in making it so.

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