Film Review: Parallel Mothers

Ana and Janis

There are few more colourful events in the film calendar than a new offering from Pedro Almodóvar. The Spanish master has a flair for the theatrical and an eye for the melodramatic. He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest living European filmmakers, with a raft of hits including Volver, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Talk To Her, Julieta and Live Flesh. His new film, Parallel Mothers, covers similar themes to his other work but has a more political edge.

During a photo shoot with a renowned archaeologist Arturo (Israel Elejalde), Janis (Penélope Cruz) takes the opportunity to ask him to use his forensic skills to excavate a mass grave where men from her village were buried during the Spanish Civil War. The pair start sleeping together and months later she’s pregnant, but determined to raise the child on her own. In hospital she meets teenage mother Ana (Milena Smit). While their babies are held in evaluation, they become close and keep in touch after they’re discharged.

The first thing you’ll notice about Parallel Mothers are the colours. The vibrancy and palette of each shot is a work of art in itself. Cruz excels, as usual, as his leading lady, but there’s a slight change of tone from Almodóvar. While the story of the two mothers, one older and confident, the other young and scared, follows an unlikely but familiar path, it’s the focus on memory and identity which comes to the fore. Although Parallel Mothers might not quite reach the heights of his best work, this exhumation feels inherently personal.  

Parallel Mothers is out in UK cinemas on 28 January.

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