Parallel Mothers (2021) - 9/10
I find that Pedro Almodóvar films can be a bit hit or miss. Granted more hit than miss and this is for me is definitely a hit. Janis (Penélope Cruz) is a photographer on a mission to retrieve her grandfathers remains from the Spanish Civil War. She knows where he is and enlists Arturo’s (Israel Elejalde) expertise with the excavation. It’s perhaps not the most conventional courtship, but before 10 minutes are up, we’ve jumped ahead to find Janis in labour. Now single in a hospital gown trading breathing techniques with Ana (Milena Smit). Janis is pleased to be expecting. Ana, younger, less so. Almodóvar certainly isn’t afraid of a time jump. Quickly getting us to the point of Parallel Mothers, Motherhood, loss and how to survive it. Well along with rape, infidelity and Franco’s brutal legacy. Ana’s mother, busy getting on with her own life is out of town for a while. Leaving Ana to get back in touch with Janis, who having had and argument about paternity with Arturo starts to wonder about her baby herself. What appears to be a fairly mundane but well paced story to start, slowly begins to twist into ever darkening places. Everyone is brilliant, but Cruz is magnificent as we wander into the sort of psychological thriller territory that would keep Hitchcock on edge. Honestly it really keeps you on your toes. Brief respites of domesticity punctured by the tense string driven score. The bond between the two leads deepening. Ana young and naive, Janis wily, controlled, loving, but secretive. Almodóvar brilliantly paints a magnificent story of betrayal, loss, and love with a cast of magnificent women. It’s a masterclass of subtle tension and manipulation. A layered tapestry that’s both devastating and brilliant. Possibly my favourite from the Spanish auteur.