Only Almodóvar could tell such stories with wit, warmth and color

Milena Smit and Penélope Cruz in Parallel Mothers

Movie Title: Parallel mothers

Director:
Pedro Almodóvar

With :
Penélope Cruz, Rossy de Palma, Julieta Serrano, Milena Smit, Aitana Sanchez-Gijón, Israel Elejalde

Kind: Drama

Runtime: 122 min

There is a certain class of twist, reveal, and plot device that can only work successfully in a telenovela or in the films of Pedro Almodóvar. Parallel Mothers, in which two women meet in a maternity ward and give birth at the same time, uses its soapy premise – and many twists – to simultaneously embrace the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War, the joys of female friendship and the complexities of maternity .

With this in mind, the film constructs three very maternal types. Janis (Penélope Cruz) is a photographer living in contemporary Madrid, who, at 40, becomes pregnant with Arturo’s (Israel Elejalde) child. He is the married forensic archaeologist she hopes will unearth the mass grave where her great-grandfather and others were murdered by the Falangists.

At the hospital, Janis meets another single mother, Ana (Milena Smit), a teenager with a disapproving estranged father and a career-minded mother, Teresa (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón). When Teresa lands a major acting role in a touring production, Janis and Ana form a complex bond that is sometimes maternal, sometimes brotherly, and sometimes sexual.

Cruz, who since Volver has delivered his best tricks collaborating with Almodóvar, remains discreet in the face of the melodramatic movements that surround him. A cast of the director’s regulars and regulars – including Rossy de Palma and Julieta Serrano – entertain a film with more than one dark subtext.

This ravishing feature fits right in with the director’s more circumspect mature work, Julietta and Pain and Glory, while calling back to his earlier feminized comedies Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Volver.

Parallel Mothers wears her heart on her beautifully styled sleeve. Even the dark excavation at the heart of the business is delivered with spirit, warmth and vibrant color. It’s hard to think of another filmmaker who could so easily juggle seemingly disparate tones and elements.

In theaters from January 28

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