Colour, pain, and a great score are all present in Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, Parallel Mothers.
Starring Penélope Cruz (Janis) and Milena Smit (Ana), this is a tense endeavour into the life of two women who get to know each other when they are put in the same hospital room when both are waiting to give birth to their children.
The artistic nature of Almodóvar’s filming technique takes the spotlight in this beautiful colour-filled film, and, alongside Cruz’s stunning presence whilst taking the main role in the movie, makes the film worth watching for die hard fans, and the common cinema consumer.
Following Almodóvar’s tendency, Parallel Mother features two strong women as the main leads in the film and, even though they both come from completely different backgrounds, they will connect fondly in the most an unimaginable way possible.
The movie opens with a photoshoot Janis, a magazine photographer in Madrid, is doing to Arturo (Israel Elejalde), a forensic archaeologist. After the shooting, Janis asks Arturo to help her with the digging up of a mass grave near her home village, where her great-grandfather is apparently buried after being murdered during the Spanish civil war.
In this first interaction between the protagonists – in the hospital room they share – it is obvious the importance Penélope Cruz will have throughout the movie. She is an older woman, she knows what she wants, and she has an incredibly strong personality.
Almodóvar does a great job at showing the ‘parallel’ lives between both pregnant women in the hospital room. The dialogue between both is strong and sincere where both confess they got pregnant by mistake. Unlike this initial similarity in both cases, Janis, an older single woman, says she wants to have kid; but Anis, an underage teenager, says she does not want to have the baby.
Following this interaction, the film has what is probably it’s the best scene portraying the act of giving birth and how the same act can mean something completely different to everyone. The shots interchange between Janis and Ana giving birth. Both suffer to give birth to their new-born, but, whilst Janis smiles and laughs, Ana cries and suffers. However, once the baby is born, they have no other option than to kiss and hug the baby, because, in the end, they are both mothers.
The film then takes a faster flow in which Almodóvar takes us over different problems that arise after the babies’ birth. Both women suffer together and are left by themselves, and, eventually come together to support each other.
Ana and Janis keep strengthening the bond they created when they basically gave birth together. The film explores this widely-known – but not much touched – relationship between two strong women properly, but, at the end, the turn into them having a romantic relationship seems somewhat cliché.
At the end of the movie, the plot thickens when the relationship between Janis and Ana deteriorates after Janis finds out their babies were mixed at birth and hides it from Ana initially. She does this because the baby Ana took home had died very young.
The tense music coming from piano and violin music give a quite picturesque extra to the dramatic scenes in the movie. Even the rock music when the relationship between the two women reaches its peak helps give depth to the scenes.
Probably what stands out from the film is Almodóvar’s incredible work with colour. The green in Janis’ house and the splash of colours all around the decorations in the house, and the continuous red give make the cinema screen look like a work of art. Sometimes these shots even take more importance than the plot itself. Far away from this being a negative aspect of the movie, it reminds the viewers that they are watching a beautiful movie.
The closure of the movie goes back to the need of finding the body of the great-grandfather. This theme is not properly touched as it only clearly appears at the start and at the end of the movie.
Either way, Penélope Cruz’s award-deserving acting send the movie to a new level. Whilst the end of the movie does not properly close the relationship between Ana and Janis and leaves many strings unattached, the film is surely one of Almodóvar’s most beautiful movies.