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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Parallel Mothers (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Starring Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Rossy de Palma, Julieta Serrano, Pedro Casablanc, Adelfa Calvo, Ainhoa Santamaría, Daniela Santiago, Ana Peleteiro, Inma Ochoa, Chema Adeva, Julio Manrique, Carmen Flores, Arantxa Aranguren, Ana Peleteiro, Mar Vidal, Trinidad Iglesias and José Javier Domínguez.

Screenplay by Pedro Almodóvar.

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 123 minutes. Rated R.

Over the years, acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar has sometimes tended to lean in on the cheesiness, surrealness and the bad taste in his stories, but Parallel Mothers plays its story fairly straight – and it’s a good fit for the director.

It takes a pretty standard (almost slightly cliched) story idea – that of two babies being mistakenly switched at the hospital maternity ward – and uses it to create a slightly melodramatic but undoubtedly moving film about families, mental health and history.

In fact, the historical aspect of Parallel Mothers is arguably more intriguing than the maternal aspects. Penélope Cruz plays Janis (her hippie mother named her after her favorite singer Janis Joplin), a photographer about to turn 40. Janis has been trying to expose the final resting place of her great-grandfather, one of many Spaniards killed by Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

An opportunity to get her ancestor’s story out comes when she gets a gig shooting a handsome anthropologist named Arturo (Israel Elejalde) for a magazine piece. After the shoot, Janis invites Arturo for coffee, to discuss the idea of searching the area which family lore tells that her ancestor – as well as many other friends and neighbors of his – had been buried.

Arturo agrees to look into the possibility, and one thing leads to another, and they end up back at her place in bed. Months later Janis realizes that she is pregnant – and she decides to raise the baby with no help from the unhappily married Arturo.

The “parallel” mother is Ana (Milena Smit), a young, depressive teen who became pregnant when she fell for the wrong guy, who ended up sharing her with his two friends. She has no idea who the father is, is mostly estranged from her divorced parents and is not sure that she is ready to have a baby.

Janis and Ana meet as roommates in the maternity ward and quickly bond over their shared impending motherhood. Janis’ maternal instincts snap in when she sees her roommate is hurting and she befriends the girl, not totally realizing their lives will continue to intertwine after both are mothers.

They become close friends and then roommates and help each other to negotiate their ways through motherhood. Then a series of tragedies and problems threaten to tear their new relationship apart.

It all could be a little overwrought – and in some ways it is – however it is so well acted and written that Parallel Mothers grabs you and won’t let you go. It’s one of Almodóvar’s finest films.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: January 15, 2022.


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