Rating (3 out of 5)
Summary: This is another entertaining film from Pedro Almodóvar, who consistently delivers solid movies. “Parallel Mothers” misses the humor of his other films. There is a story line about mass graves from civil unreset earlier in Spanish history, which felt odd. Overall, this was a good night at the movie theater.
The main story is the relationship between Janis (Penélope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit) as they give birth to baby girls at the same hospital. As Janis realizes that her little Cecilia is not her baby, you are fascinated by what she will do next. She stumbles across Ana and learns that Ana’s baby died; you wonder if she will break the news to Ana about the baby. There was a little suspense always in the background, which kept you interested in the film. However, portions are slow, especially when Janis and Ana form a relationship.
The film offers an glimpse into two different single mothers and the challenges they face. There are subtle comparisons of family throughout the film. There is even a challenging moment where the film delves into that aspect of rape. Also, Almodóvar consistently hammers away at the different types of mothers and wives. Amazing how he wraps all of this into one 2 hour film.
In the end, I was cheering for both women, but only one could have the baby in the end. The movie does have somewhat of a storybook ending for the two women. However, the film ends at a gravesite where some villagers had been executed by fascists. This was a a strange note to end the movie, but an essential point for the movie maker.
As I compare this film to “The Lost Daughter,” the skill and mastery of Pedro Almodóvar’s direction compared to the dullness of Maggie Gyllenhaal reflect the difference in directors beyond a story. There is a mastery in the moment-to-moment technique of what is shown on screen. Onne scene where not much is happening, but how Pedro Almodóvar cuts back and forth between the character and their hand opening a door, back to the character, to some other object. The technique gives even a slow scene pace and, more importantly, a feeling.