Friday, June 24, 2022

Review: "PARALLEL MOTHERS" is Another Almodovar-Cruz Masterpiece

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 39 of 2022 (No. 1851) by Leroy Douresseaux

Parallel Mothers (2021)
Original title: Madres paralelas
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Spain; Language: Spanish
Running time:  123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPA – R for some sexuality
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Pedro Almodóvar
PRODUCERS:  Augustin Almodóvar and Esther Garcia
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  José Luis Alcaine (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Teresa Font
COMPOSER:  Alberto Iglesias
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Penelope Cruz, Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Julieta Serrano, Adelfa Clavo, Carmen Flores, Ainhoa Santamaria, and Rossy de Palma

Madres paralelas is a 2021 Spanish drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar.  The film is also known by its English release title, Parallel Mothers (the title I will use for this review).  The film focuses on two mothers who give birth on the same day causing them to bond in unexpected ways.

Parallel Mothers introduces Janis Martínez (Penelope Cruz), a highly considered magazine photographer.  She does a photo shoot with renowned forensic archaeologist, Arturo (Israel Elejalde). She asks him if his foundation will help excavate a mass grave in her home village, where she believes her great-grandfather and other men from the village were killed and buried during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).  After he agrees to review the case with his foundation, Arturo has sexual relations with Janis, who becomes pregnant.

Later, Janis shares a hospital room with Ana Manso (Milena Smit), a teen single mother, and the two end up giving birth at the same time.  Janis has a daughter whom she names “Cecilia,” and Ana a daughter she names “Anita.”  The women promise to stay in touch, but Janis makes a series of shocking discoveries that will change both their lives.

Parallel Mothers is obviously an acting showcase for Penelope Cruz, who wastes no time exercising her prodigious talents.  Cruz won numerous awards and received even more nominations for her performance as Janis Martinez.  Writer-director Pedro Almodovar has spent his four-decade career in film making writing wonderful roles for women that result is wonderful films featuring an eclectic group of actresses.

Parallel Mothers' women are united across time by the bonds of motherhood, family, friendship, and loss.  They are the speakers for the dead and the nurtures of men, but they also nurture and support and lift-up the other women in their lives.  This is the uplift that Janis will provide for Ana, played by actress Milena Smit as a pixie of a girl in need of mothering.  Janis and Ana are the solid center and radiant soul of this film about the complications and twists, the pain and the glory, and joy, sadness, and bittersweet nature of being a mother.

The film has a subplot involving the Spanish Civil War, which is the impetus for the Janis and Arturo conceiving a child.  The search for the missing graves in her village, a grave that will hold the remains of her great-grandfather and the grandfathers of other women she knows is also part of the film's theme of loss and separation.  These men, murdered in the civil war, should ultimately have a decent burial, and Janis and the other women will see to that.

Pedro Almodovar offers a film that is as raw and unflinching as it is beautiful.  He draws out performances that are unashamedly naked and vulnerable in their depictions and displays of emotions, in a way American films tend to avoid, even Oscar-bait films.  Sometimes Almodovar can be riotous and uproarious, but other times he can be uncannily intimate, as he is here.  Sometimes, I feel unworthy of viewing his amazing films, which are so different and so much more daring than what I usually watch.  Parallel Mothers is one of 2021's very best films and reveals that the Spanish maestro is, as usual, in top form.

10 of 10

Friday, June 24, 2022

2022 Academy Awards, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Penelope Cruz) and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score (Alberto Iglesias)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Film not in the English Language” (Pedro Almodóvar and Augustin Almodovar)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language” (
Spain) and Best Original Score – Motion Picture (Alberto Iglesias)

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