Noted film auteur Pedro Almodóvar returns to cinemas with a haunting, beautiful, riveting and character-driven work starring his long time muse Penélope Cruz in Parallel Mothers and this is an exceptional piece of original cinema that will have you transfixed on the images that are played before your eyes.
Two single women (Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit) meet in a hospital room where they are both going to give birth. One is a middle-aged, career woman named Janis (Cruz) and doesn’t regret it, while the other is adolescent Ana and scared. The two women form a strong bond with one another as they both confront motherhood.
As a filmmaker and storyteller, Pedro Almodóvar is one of the all-time greats and his original voice and desire to push the boundaries of genre and the art of cinema itself always leads to the promise of exceptional stories. Parallel Mothers is again another incredible work from a master storyteller, and audiences expecting one film are delivered another. Parallel Mothers is not at all what it seems at first glance and Almodóvar builds out an intriguing narrative with multiple frames of view that change and twist in the telling.
At once an intimate story of two women who meet at a new crossroads in their lives before turning into a sinister-edged thriller where questions of identity and possession also come into play. Dripping with Almodóvar’s trademark use of melodrama, Parallel Mothers is composed of many different emotions, from happiness to heartbreak, lightness to dread and bound by questions of the past, present and future. It’s a work of film that is unique and Almodóvar takes his time to deliver this story to his audience.
With Parallel Mothers, Almodóvar also reunites with long-time muse Penélope Cruz and this is Cruz as we have not seen her before. As a professional and glamourous photographer Janis Martínez Moreno, Cruz is a woman in command of her entire world, until a one-time tryst with hunky and suave archeologist Arturo (Israel Elejalde) results in a pregnancy and a different and new life. While some expect her to be bogged down as a mother, this is not the case here with Parallel Mothers and instead the twists and turns of Janis’ life happen in an all-together more sinister fashion.
With his handling of genre, Almodóvar paints Cruz in many different lights ranging from heroine to villain to victim to mother, and this changing development of her character seems very refreshing in a cinema landscape that very often paints characters as one dimensional. Janis is fully formed and ever-changing and Cruz holds the attention of the audience with her passion and intensity and her performance makes Parallel Mothers a wild ride.
Part of the intrigue of Parallel Mothers comes in the way that the narrative is expressed and presented and there’s so much intensity in the story that you can’t help but look away. As is his style Almodóvar does not allow his audience to figure his movie out, and it’s only in witnessing the entire narrative that you can truly experience the brilliance of the story. I for one enjoyed how he was able to move from a narrative that is sometimes completely wholesome before the next second later turning deadly sinister, and Parallel Mothers forces you as an audience member to keep your wits about you and to stay on your toes. It’s a film that original cinematic experience and storytelling are top-notch.
For those who are seeking something different and all-together, original Parallel Mothers ranks as one of the year’s best films. It’s the presentation of a director and an actress at the top of their game, and who trust each other and the material completely and the result is utterly incredible to look upon.
Image: Sony Pictures