FOUR STARS Janis and Ana meet in a maternity ward. Their lives become linked forever. DRAMA Spain (Spanish language) #PARALLELMOTHERS
Starring Penelope Cruz, Milena Smit
Bar one, the films of Pedro Almodovar have landed somewhere between impressive and astonishing. PARALLEL MOTHERS, a considered drama that draws lines from the director’s exceptional ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, joins his canon of Astonishingly Good Films.
There are two themes here that run in, er, parallel. One about the importance of historical memory which forms the story’s backbone. Another about loss and resilience which takes the forward narrative. Together they resolve in an emotional punch that earns the film the considerable respect it has been afforded.
Two women - Janis (Penelope Cruz) and the much younger Ana (newcomer Milena Smit) - find themselves in a maternity ward on the same day. While Janis has the support of her good friend Elena (Rossy de Palma), Ana has only her unfocused actress-mother to care for her. She turns to Janis in fear and trepidation and together they survive the ordeal, giving birth to girls. Clearly this is a story about women, about sisterhood.
A few years later circumstance brings them together again, although Ana’s daughter has since died and Janis is questioning the maternity of her own child. She puts that aside to focus on her advocacy work for women seeking acknowledgment of relatives slain during Spain’s civil war. Thus Janis needs a nanny, employs Ana and the pair become close. Very close.
On one hand, PARALLEL MOTHERS is a romantic drama with motherhood and loss at its core. It’s about women bonding, caring for one another and knowing when to stand back. It’s also about stepping forward to acknowledge a past that so deeply affects the present. Again it’s about loss, but it’s also about making a better future for generations to come. Something men seem incapable of doing.
Once again Almodovar shows why he’s regarded as one of the finest directors in the business. His story-telling is captivating, his production bewitching, the emotional impact gut-wrenching. Cruz and Smit are sensational as women who find courage for one another, in one another and show others how to find courage for themselves. From the opening scene to the final credits, not a frame is wasted, no one puts a foot wrong.
Given the set up, high drama and soaring emotion you might think this would take a comic turn to rival the giddy heights of the director’s earlier domestic comedies. Instead he chooses urgent, often sentimental, drama to join the threads of this intricately woven story. He leans into his tics and motifs, and the result is irresistible.