Parallel Mothers (2021) Review

Pedro Almodóvar Turns a Simple Story into A Classic Almodóvar Mess.

Parallel Mothers (2021) Review

Pedro Almodóvar has been a filmmaker since the early 1980s, starting his filmmaking career in his home country of Spain. With films like Matador, Women on The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, all of which star his first muse Antonio Banderas. He’s known for his colorful, yet dark and somewhat perverse stories. His voice in filmmaking is unique as he creates and constructs his own world through his films that can only be described as “Almodóvar”. Parallel Mothers, Madres Paralelas, is his latest directorial feature, and although this may be one of his more straightforward stories, it’s just as “Almodóvar” as his other works.

I saw this film right before it got taken out of my favorite theater, Harkins Estrella Falls, on the Thursday of February 3rd. My theater experience was something of pure isolation and silence. I walked up to the one concession stand worker as fast as I could, the sound of my shoes moving across the floor overpowering the sound of movie trailers and popcorn popping. I arrived 10 minutes late from the showtime yet still made sure to order a small popcorn and iced tea, making it to the completely empty theater where the trailer of The Daniels’ newest film Everything Everywhere All at Once greeted me. Previews before a film are a curse and a blessing.

Moving on deeper into the film, Parallel Mothers is the story of two mothers, Janis and Ana (Played by Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit), who gave birth on the same day in the same hospital room. The story takes us on a strange journey, watching two mothers face different perspectives of conflict and pain involving relationships and death. For a film with such a simple plot, Almodóvar tries his best to pack as much as he can into it. It’s obvious he has a lot to say, but it’s also obvious he’s not making this film for any audience but himself, just like the rest of his films. Above all, Almodóvar is a filmmaker who knows and understands his own voice whilst not censoring his artistic craft. This can sometimes make for a very thought provoking and moving experience, while other times, Parallel Mothers unfortunately being the most recent example, his way of storytelling can make for a semi-pleasing but messy experience. The plot of this film is very hard to define, seeing as it’s a film about motherhood, while also containing conflicts of unrequited love and some sort of political message. It’s really hard to pin down the true message, but there’s so much packed into this film and I really wish it was longer so Almodóvar had more time to clean this up a bit. However, I say this with a grain of salt as I also found appreciation in how this film, although messy, felt like a project Almodóvar has a lot of passion for, and whether or not it worked for me, the passion was still consistent.

One of the best aspects of this film was the performances from Penelope Cruz (who just got an Oscar nomination for this performance) and Milena Smit. They both gave some truly believable performances and blended into Almodóvar’s world perfectly (no surprise from Cruz). Additionally, Rossy de Palma shows up in this and it’s always nice seeing her in Pedro Almodóvar’s work.

Now, onto the main star of this film, Almodóvar’s great, colorful directing. His directing in this film is no different than his directing and storytelling in his other works. Snappy camera work, camera shots with much thought put into them, and the classic fade to black editing.

At the end of the day, this film really is just a colorful, emotional, Almodóvar mess. There’s just as much to enjoy as there is to also find infuriating about this film. After letting this film soak for awhile, I’ve come to terms that this is a film I find a personal enjoyment in, whether that be the positive aspects I found or simply the feeling of passion within the film. If you’re a fan of Almodóvar’s work, I’d definitely say to give this a shot, but if you’re not familiar with his work, I’d stay away from this.

3.5/5 – Where Was Antonio Banderas During All of This? Pfft, Can’t Rely on Men For Anything.