Starring Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit
Scott’s Review #1,326
Reviewed December 22, 2022
The terrific quality encircling Parallel Mothers (2021), Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, is the constant homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Not to imply that the cult favorite Spanish director needs to borrow at all because he’s got a flavor and color all his own but he has fun adding some patterns of the influential director.
Anytime there is a compelling identity switcheroo or mistaken identity to enjoy it makes me think of the director. Throw in a dose of subtle lesbianism to make things interesting and you’ve got yourself an excellent film.
I also noticed a bit of Brian DePalma’s influence in the dreamy scenes but it’s primarily Hitchcockian as far as the suspense and plot twists are concerned.
The setting is Madrid, Spain (more about that later) where two women, Janis (Penélope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit), meet in a hospital room where they are about to give birth. Both are single and became pregnant by accident unsure of what, if any, future with the fathers they will have.
Janis, middle-aged, is exultant to become a new mother, whereas Ana, an adolescent, is scared, and traumatized. Janis encourages Ana which creates a close link between the two women assumed to never see each other again following the birth of their babies.
But a strange twist of fate brings the women back into each other’s lives and their babies are at the heart of a complicated situation.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Parallel Mothers but I assumed that Cruz played a fortysomething woman who perhaps doesn’t want to give birth at her age.
Cruz is excellent in the role of Janis, a confident woman who exudes warmth and stoicism. She is unfazed about her one-night stand and plans to live happily ever after with the baby daddy despite his wife suffering from cancer.
Janis is not delusional but knows what she wants and is determined to get it embracing her situation and caring for others in her path instead of manipulating them.
A strange situation occurs with Ana and her baby which throws everything into a spiral.
Cruz is a muse of Almodóvar’s, appearing in many of his films like Volver (2006) and Pain and Glory (2019) and she is perfectly cast in this role. She is a mature woman, a feminist, and a role model while staying true to her family roots which is how she meets the father of her child.
Anyone who has either been to Madrid or aspires to (me!) will be treated to a history lesson free of charge. Plenty of location sequences of the city, restaurants, and street life are featured. As with Almodóvar’s style, he incorporates vibrant colors, a rich aesthetic, and brilliant cinematography.
The musical score enhances the series of events perfectly.
A slight miss for me is the connection between the baby story and the other story which is the disappearance of people during Spain’s wars. I didn’t envelope the important civil war story as much as I should of or understand what the connection was.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing?
The introduction and backstory of Ana’s mother, a well-known theater actress, felt jarring and out of place. I expected more of a connection to the other events in the film than was to be found.
Almodóvar teeters more in the vein of drama than his usual witty comedies like 2013’s I’m So Excited and the results are stimulating especially with Cruz in the main role.
Parallel Mothers (2021) is a sizzling and titillating exploration of human sensation, eroticism, and emotion.
Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Penélope Cruz, Best Original Score
Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best International Film