Pedro Almodóvar blends the personal with the political as he looks back on his country’s chequered past in one of his finest films.
Janis (Penélope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit) are two expectant mothers who share the same hospital room as they enter labour. Janis, a photographer, was in a relationship with a forensic archaeologist involved in uncovering the crimes committed during General Franco’s fascist dictatorship. Ana is a young woman who has chosen to escape her past. Over time, the two women’s encounter becomes something more, with both having to face up to truths they might prefer to remain hidden, in order to move forward.
At his best, as he is here, Almodóvar combines emotion and intelligence with a visual style that explodes with colour. His integration of a country’s past with his protagonist’s personal stories is seamless, highlighting the importance of the individual in historical events. Cruz is excellent, but is ably matched by relative newcomer Smit and supported by the familiar faces of Rossy de Palma and Julieta Serrano, alongside Israel Elejalde as Janis’ lover and a fabulous Aitana Sánchez-Gijón as Ana’s ambitious, hilariously self-obsessed actor mother. Arguably his finest film since 1999’s All About My Mother, Parallel Mothers reaffirms the Spanish filmmaker as one of the giants of world cinema.