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The Crack Magazine

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Film of the Month: Parallel Mothers

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Stars: Penelope Cruz, Milena Smit, Rossy De Palma, Israel Elejalde Aitana Sánchez-Gijón

Penélope Cruz always does her best work with Pedro Almodóvar, and her performance here, as a woman coming to terms with life-changing revelations, is possibly her best to date. She is Janis, a Madrid-based photographer having an affair with a married man, Arturo (Elejalde), an anthropologist supervising the excavation of bodies of people that were ‘disappeared’ in the fascist Franco era. Janis is pleasantly surprised to find she is pregnant. Arturo still has commitments to his sick wife, but Janis is happy to take sole responsibility. In hospital she meets fellow mother-to-be Ana (Smit), a frightened and overwhelmed teen who became pregnant in much more traumatic circumstances. After the birth, the two women stay in touch and a bond forms, particularly after Ana is all but abandoned by her mother Teresa (Sánchez-Gijón), an actor who finds the offer of a tour of the regions too good to resist. Then Janis’s life is rocked by a shocking revelation. The subsequent soap opera style reveals are treated by the director and his cast with the utmost seriousness and commitment in a stirring exploration of family in all its different permutations. Cruz is excellent as Janis, a pragmatic and gutsy woman able to navigate life-shattering events with bravery and who is able to maintain a sense of feminine solidarity when tested. Smit is very impressive, her Ana vulnerable and occasionally spiky but capable of real bravery and compassion. The cinematography and production design are typically immaculate, and this is Almodóvar’s most political film to date, which sees him unearthing Spain's troubled history to moving effect. The closing shot is devastating.

David Willoughby

Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm

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