Parallel Mothers often finds Almodóvar doing Almodóvar, leaning into all of his tics and obsession for this tale of two women whose lives become forever linked when they meet in a maternity ward.
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While Parallel Mothers doesn’t match the intricately interwoven layers of Almodóvar’s top-tier work — All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Pain and Glory — and some of its key plot disclosures can be seen coming, that doesn’t make the melodrama any less gripping or emotionally satisfying.
In a world turned careful and considered (not by choice but by necessity) this extravagant, exuberant, magnificently messy movie, punch-drunk on story and delirious with drama, is the antidote to a cinematic lethargy you may not even have known you were feeling, until one of its legitimately insane plot pirouettes forcibly reminds you just how much dimension and chaos and vitality a flat beam of light projected onto a wall can contain.
This comfortable armchair of great, old-school cinematic craft is made all the more embracing by Iglesias’s nuanced soundtrack. But we’re jolted out of that seat, and made to stand in admiration, as the film deftly weaves together two tales of removal – one maternal, the other political and historic.
This is undoubtedly one of Almódovar’s breezier and more accessible domestic dramas.
It’s a film of cascading twists and turns, of thickening complication, of high family drama. Hearing that, you might imagine that it’s a movie of high comedy as well — a giddy and ironic Almodóvarian stew of maternal diva melodrama. But Parallel Mothers, while it keeps us hooked on what’s happening with a showman’s finesse, is not a comedy. It’s not an over-the-top Pedro party.c
Even when Almodóvar plays on easy mode – and nothing about Parallel Mothers could be described as difficult – the results are irresistible.
Parallel Mothers is a movie of infinite tenderness, that rare ode to motherhood that acknowledges mothers as women first and mothers second.
Let nobody fault Almodóvar’s ambition here. If this finally lacks the polished sweep and completeness of Pain and Glory, his previous feature, it compensates with an air of fraught intimacy and throws out a wealth of ideas, leaving some tantalising loose ends to be picked up and examined.