Almodovar strikes again with Parallel Mothers

Since I’m on my Oscar binge watch, I couldn’t help but notice an interesting title in the nominees list. “Parallel Mothers”. I didn’t know this was Almodovar. But I guessed it about mid-way through due to a few giveaways.

How to identify a movie made by Pedro Almodovar?

  • Penelope Cruz or Antonio Banderas stars in it. Or maybe both like in Dolor y Gloria or Competition (
  • It’s in Spanish (duh!)
  • It features a Lesbian, Gay or Drag Queen moment (I loved Kika and Laws of Desire! And All About my Mother)
  • There’s a heartfelt confession about acting or directing and how it’s almost a sacrifice in the name of art
  • The colours! So vibrant and well balanced. Red for passion, blue for thought, yellow for the joy of life. If you showed me a black and white movie, it wouldn’t be an Almodovar.
  • There’s always something traditional in the decor. The tiles, the chairs, the room ornaments. It talks of other times and there’s a twinge of regret.

So – by about a third in, I was mostly convinced Almodovar came back from his retirement (after Pain and Glory in 2018) to bring another gem to the screen. It’s only when the credits rolled in I started whooping and rolling from side to side from joy and excitement.

The Story

Two women meet in the hospital just before they give birth. One is a nearly 40-year old woman having an affair with a married man whose wife is undergoing cancer treatments and the other is a teenager who got pregnant after she was raped by high-school “friends” during a drunk-drug induced party went wrong. They form an instant connection and exchange numbers.

After the babies are born, they are switched by mistake and Janis (named after Janis Joplin) ends up with Ana’s baby and Ana with Janis’.

Due to some questions posed by the baby’s father and a gnawing suspicion, Janis orders a maternity test and finds out there is no way she is related to her baby. In a panic, she goes through all of the emotions: call a lawyer, call her ex, call the other mom. But then decides against it and changes her number, blocking everyone that could take her baby away.

We also get to see Ana bonding with her babe, being a better mom that her own mom was to her. From sneaks and peaks, we find out that Ana’s parents weren’t the best, passing her around when she got pregnant, advising her not to go to the police when she got raped so her reputation wouldn’t suffer and mostly sending her from place to place like a package.

Ana decides to be a better mom and you can see her care and her love.

Janis and Ana do meet again after a year or so and Janis invites the young girl for dinner, possibly to tell her that her daughter is with her and plan an exchange. We think that’s why she invited her – the guilt. But she doesn’t go through with the plan when she finds out that Ana’s baby (or more likely Janis’s) suffered from SIDS.

Then starts the beautiful part of the movie with great acting from both sides. Ana is gorgeous in an androgynous way and Penelope Cruz honestly looks more like early 30s than a woman who was born in ’74. They get together, they talk about dreams and aspirations and are actually really good at co-parenting. It feels like without intruding too much, Janis is both a mother to her baby and to Ana too, teaching her how to be self-sufficient like herself.

It’s only when she reveals the biological truth of her daughter that it all implodes.

I loved the drama. What’s right is not always easy and sometimes bonds can be broken and re-forged stronger than ever.

The last bit of the movie felt like an add-on and while it was mentioned throughout the developments, it felt more like something to be talked about – the victims of the war, the mass graves, the excavation, all those people lying in a ditch. Eh, it felt like it didn’t quite fit in with the swapped babies momma drama.

2 nominations aux Oscars

  · Meilleure actrice

  · Meilleure musique originale

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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