Parallel Mothers Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Janice (Penelope Cruz) – forty-six years old. She is a single, beautiful, smart, well-to-do woman working as a fashion photographer. On the next shoot, she meets the anthropologist Arturo (Israel Elehalde), who interests her primarily because Arturo is engaged in nameless burials made during the Spanish Civil War, and Janice is looking for the remains of her great-grandfather, who was killed by the Francoists and buried in the fraternal grave.

Janice starts an affair with Arturo, becomes pregnant from him, while deciding to leave the child and is going to raise him herself: she does not plan to start a family with Arturo, especially since Arturo, as far as Janice knows, has a wife who has serious health problems.

At the hospital, Janice finds herself in the same room as 17-year-old Ana (Milena Smith). Ana has an unexpected and at the same time completely unwanted pregnancy, but she also decided to keep the child.

The two women support each other and have girls. Before being discharged, Janis and Ana exchange phone numbers, unaware that in the future their life paths will be closely intertwined.

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Pedro Almodovar’s new film with one of his main muses: Penélope Cruz starred in eight of the director’s films. Not all in the lead role, but in many. In this film, Penelope Cruz plays the main role.

Almodovar made his previous film against the backdrop of a clear creative crisis, but only great directors manage to turn their creative crisis into a new beautiful film – as Federico Fellini did with the classic “8 and a half” and as Pedro Almodovar himself did with “Pain and Glory” “- powerful, without any doubt – confessional, and Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz played superbly in it.

The maestro’s new film is quite simple and rather contemplative: Almodovar actively uses his favorite combinations of red and green (in general, such colors are considered poorly combined), the picture in the film is bright, juicy and very beautiful.

The plot of this film is quite simple, and with its twists and turns even at times resembles a Latin American soap opera, for which some critics reproach Almodovar. But it seems that it was deliberately done in this way: in this case, Almodovar is interested not so much in the logic of what is happening, but in the opportunity to talk about the topic of motherhood, about the relationship between parents and children.

Janis is a mature woman and she wanted to keep the child, Ana is a young girl who became pregnant as a result of tragic circumstances. Their subsequent relationships after childbirth are quite complex and dramatic.

It is also interesting that there are practically no men here. In the life of Janice, the father was practically absent, in the life of Ana there is no father either, and the anthropologist Arturo does not take too much time, he is a very auxiliary character here.

With the mothers of the main characters, too, everything is not thank God. Janice’s mother was a drug addict and died long ago, Ana’s mother is an actress, preoccupied exclusively with her own career.

Almodovar in his films often explored the theme of motherhood, and here this is the main line of the picture, but towards the end, this topic suddenly changes quite unexpectedly, and Almodovar talks about the historical memory of Spain: Arturo nevertheless organizes an expedition to study an unnamed burial, where, according to the assumption Janice contains the remains of her great-grandfather, who was killed by the Francoists. And the director, as it were, connects these two themes: the emergence of a new life and the historical memory of the Spanish Civil War, as well as the memory of the ancestors who died in this war.

Penelope Cruz is incredibly organic as Janice. I don’t particularly like this actress in American films (like Antonio Banderas, by the way), but she is one of the main muses of Almodovar, and I really like her in his films. No one shoots Penelope Cruz like Almodovar, and nowhere does she play so well.

And here Penelope literally draws the whole film on herself: with all its almost deliberate “soapy” Latin American twists, with a sharp change in the tone of the presentation, which, it seems, makes two completely different pictures from one picture at once. Penelope is very good, and most importantly, she is extremely natural here and in her game there is not even a serial “soap” nearby.

Actress Milena Smith had previously played only one significant role in the film “Walk the Line” (where her partner was Mario Casas), and, of course, it was very difficult for her not to get lost against the background of such a bright actress as Penelope Cruz. However, Milena, in my opinion, did a very good job with the role and looked quite decent.

What is the result? Of course, this is far from the most significant film for Almodovar: it seems that after the powerful and extremely complex film Pain and Glory, the maestro rather rested, so this film is quite a passing one for him. And there are all sorts of complaints about the production, but in general I liked the picture, and I watched it not without pleasure.

The new film by Pedro Almodovar did not remain without nominations and awards: as many as eight nominations for the Spanish Goya film award (none won), a nomination for the French Cesar, a nomination for the British BAFTA, two nominations for the Golden Globe, two nominations for “Oscar”, two nominations at the Venice Film Festival and one victory at the Venice Film Festival (Penelope Cruz – for Best Actress).

PS The name of the main character of the film is Janis. And in Spanish, this name is pronounced as Hanis. However, the heroine was named after the American singer Janis Joplin (in United Statesn this name is written as Janis Joplin), so she is called Janis in the film (precisely “Janis” – in the Spanish manner).

 

Parallel mothers / Madres paralelas review

Directed by: Pedro Almodovar Cast: Penélope Cruz, Milena Smith, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sanchez-Gijón, Julieta Serrano, Rossi De Palma, Pedro Casablanc, Daniela, Santiago, Ana Peleteiro, José Javier Dominguez

Drama, Spain-France, 2021, 123 min.

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