Penélope Cruz shines along side co-star Milena Smit in Pedro Almodóvar’s new film Parallel Mothers (2021). This is the first Almodóvar film I have been able to see, despite desiring to see Paing and Glory (2019). From what I’ve read, his style is very distinct, and it shows in this film – despite my inexperience with his work.
Janis (Cruz) meets Ana (Smit) while sharing a hospital room, and both are soon-to-give birth as single mothers; Janis is happy to have her child, and the much younger Ana is remorseful and frightened. There is an undeniable connection between the two, and their lives intertwine in unexpected ways.
There is a clear soap opera quality to the melodrama that Almodóvar brings to this film. Even some of the cinematography looks more like that of a soap opera than a film. It mostly occurs during conversations where a character is in a single, and yet the background remains in focus. There is a TV-quality to the look of these shots – and when coupled with the substance of the conversation, it can feel exquisitely melodramatic. That’s the odd thing about this film…there are moments that are clearly chock full of melodrama – and then in moments where you’d expect it to crescendo, the character reveals much more naturalistic humanity. It’s a delicate balance that Almodóvar brings, and it makes for an incredibly complex experience.
It’s in these moments that Cruz really gets to flex her acting chops. She can bring the tears, the drama, and the empathy that this role requires. Yet, there is something so natural to her performance that even in the heightened scenes, it feels so believable. Smit stands with her in these moments, and feels a little more naive – and that fits perfectly to her younger character.
There is a lot that happens in this film, but the political elements about Spain that Almodóvar brings to the film only make it feel all the more important. There are so many parallels going on that the name really doesn’t justify all the context. I don’t pretend to fully understand all of what Almodóvar is doing, but I get enough to know how brilliant it is.
Parallel Mothers is definitely a film worth checking out. The story takes a number of twists that I never saw coming. I wasn’t really sure what the movie was going to be, but I was extremely satisfied with it by the conclusion. Parallel Mothers earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.