Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers” considers the challenges and responsibilities related to family.
True to its name, it focuses on motherhood, but it also delves into the differences between blood relatives and those we choose to regard as family, how people set various boundaries when it comes to commitment in relationships, and our connections to our ancestors.
In typical Almodovar fashion, “Parallel Mothers” (R, 123 minutes, playing at Cape Cinema in Dennis, opening Jan. 28 at Waters Edge Cinema in Provincetown) depicts life as complex and messy. The characters are imperfect and confused. They make mistakes and harm others through questionable decisions. They struggle with their own desires vs. the needs of others. They’re also capable of warmth and kindness and forgiveness.
Almodovar provides a balanced, realistic view of these characters, but he gives the sense that he cares about them, that he sympathizes with them, that maybe he even loves them. Rather than that attitude compromising the film, it enhances it. It deepens it.
The parallel mothers of the title are professional photographer Janis (Penelope Cruz) and teenage Ana (Milena Smit). Both single and pregnant, the two strangers share a room in a hospital, have their babies on the same day and form a strong bond. Their lives will interweave from this point on, as they deal with love, parenthood, heartache and loss.
There’s also a subplot involving Franco’s atrocities during the Spanish Civil War. While interesting on its own, it seems forced when linked to the rest of the story, leading to a finale that doesn’t carry the intended punch.
Overall, though, the film is compelling, as we watch the two central characters sort out their lives.
Among other things, “Parallel Mothers” provides an excellent showcase for its star, Cruz. This is her eighth collaboration with Almodovar, and she’s exceptional in it, expressing a wide array of emotions in an always genuine performance. She and her director make quite a team. ***½ (out of four)
** Click here for Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **
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Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and Tony Raine host “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and womr.org (archived shows at https://womr.org/schedule/broadcast-archive/). He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.