Parallel Mothers (2021)

Ho-hum, another year, another exceptionally wonderful Almodóvar movie. Two hours with zero seconds of wasted time – this guy can just make a movie that’s about relationships, but actually about mistaken identity and mourning, but actually about mass murders in wartime. Shot digitally I’m guessing, has a sponsored-by-Apple feel.

Photographer Penelope Cruz and archaeologist Israel Elejalde:

Parallel mother Milena Smit:


The Human Voice (2020)

The least-talky version of this play ever produced, and maybe the shortest movie to ever play Phipps on its own. Absolute luxury mixed with staginess/artificiality.

The Apple sponsorship continues:

In a small town (interests: bullfighting, the local underwear factory), wimpy Armando del Rio gets his girlfriend Penelope Cruz pregnant, to the horror of Armando’s mother (Stefania Sandrelli of The Conformist), who hires virile Javier Bardem to seduce Penelope. Kinda weird and fun movie, with some uneven melodrama.

Quoting myself in an email: “Favorite part is how they emphasize that this is a nowhere town by showing tractor trailers blowing past in every scene.”

And again:

That scene [the battle to the death with legs of jamon] is the movie’s downfall in a nutshell. It all started out a wacky, bizarre comedy with nude bullfighting, topless Penelope Cruz, confused young lovers, bitchy feuding parents, oedipal complexes and lots of jamon… then gradually turns dark and serious, while still trying to remain focused on giant testicles. So in that final jamon-fight, one character is comically whacked in his comically huge groin area, and three seconds later another character is tragically killed and everyone is sad. We didn’t buy the tonal shift.

Marsha Kinder’s Film Quarterly review points out that we missed lots of cultural references:

In its violent climax, Jamón Jamón uses a pair of ham bones to parodically reproduce Goya’s famous painting, “Duel with Cudgels.” In the process it also evokes Saura’s serious adaptation of this image in Lament for a Bandit (1963), with its overly dramatic music and its stylized movements between distancing long shots and brutal close-ups – an alternation that makes it difficult for us to miss the studied allusion. Yet Bigas Luna’s bathetic choice of weapon also brings to mind Almodóvar’s murderous ham bone in What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984).

Luna won an award in Venice and Bardem was noticed for his acting. Nominated for all the Goya awards, but trounced by the other Penelope Cruz movie in her debut year in film, Belle Epoque. Luna figured his movie’s success was due to casting Javier Bardem as a guy with big balls, so he did that again the following year with Huevos de Oro.

Film director Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar of Bad Education) reinvents himself as novelist Harry Caine after an accident, both out of trauma from losing his lover Lena (Penélope Cruz), and to stay in hiding from the men he suspects caused the accident. Millionaire Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez of Goya’s Ghosts), producing Mateo’s film which stars Ernesto’s young wife Lena is one of those men, and his closeted son (Rubén Ochandiano of Che, Biutiful), stalking Mateo and Lena with a videocamera, is the other. Those four plus the always excellent Blanca Portillo (pot-smoking friend in Volver) are the core of the movie, which stays twisty and exciting due to Almodovar’s withholding of major story elements (like the car crash) until the end. As with Volver, it didn’t seem to burst off the screen and declare its excellence, just came off as another solid Almodovar pic. But thinking of those two in hindsight they seem so good I want to watch them again right now. Maybe that’s why the Almodovar movies I’ve seen more than once (All About My Mother, Talk To Her, Women on the Verge) are my favorites… all his work needs to be examined a second time, to appreciate the filmmaking once the shocks of the plot twists have worn off.


T. Stempel:

Almodóvar is very aware that he is borrowing, and to save us from having to make a list of films and filmmakers he is referring to, we get a later scene of Diego going through Harry’s DVD collection, reading off titles and directors. One thing that struck me in watching the film is that it makes more sense as you watch it than any summary I have seen in the reviews of it. That is Almodóvar’s skill as a screenwriter.


Ernesto’s son (in the present-day scenes calling himself Ray X) comes off as cartoonish (no disrespect to the actor; he’s given a cartoonish role to play). Mateo/Harry is very good as the star of the story, but as usual with Pedro’s films, my eyes are glued to the women: Cruz, Portillo, Lola Dueñas (The Sea Inside, Volver) as a lip-reader employed by Ernesto, and the unforgettable Rossy de Palma in a brief cameo.