All About My Mother (1999, Almodovar)

Manuela (completely excellent Cecilia Roth) takes her son Esteban (Eloy Azarin) to see A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes) as Blanche, and Nina (Candela Pena) as Stella. Esteban wants Huma’s autograph, chases her taxi in the rain, and is fatally struck by another car. Manuela travels from Madrid to Barcelona to tell Esteban’s father Lola (Toni Canto), a transsexual, that his son has died, and that he had a son in the first place.

In Barcelona she hooks up with Lola’s friend Agrado (Antonia San Juan), who got ripped off by Lola a few months prior. Agrado leads her to the nun Sister Maria Rosa Sanz (Penelope Cruz) to find Lola, not knowing that Sister Maria is pregnant with Lola’s son, a fact she tries to hide from her parents. The “Streetcar” theater company has also moved to Barcelona and Manuela tracks them down, sorta accidentally becoming Huma’s personal assitant (a job later handed over to Agrado), which mostly consists of tracking down Nina after she disappears to find/take drugs.

Sister Maria dies in childbirth, naming her son Esteban. Manuela becomes Esteban’s mother, because Maria’s mom has her hands full watching Maria’s alzheimers-suffering dad.

Awesome, with moving performances throughout… sad and happy and wonderful. Technically strong, well edited and written, but the entire focus is on the performances, the actresses. Worth seeing again and again. Beat a buncha movies I’ve never heard of for best foreign oscar in 2000. Apparently it was loosely based on The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau.

Both Almodovar movies seen today feature incredible coincidences happening while women search for the fathers of their children. Both take place in large cities (Madrid and Barcelona) but treat the cities like familiar towns, where you can always run into someone you know.

Almodovar’s closing dedication: “To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother.”