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Play It Again, Tim — Mothers bond in Almodovar drama

Written by Tim Miller

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.

Penelope Cruz, right, and Milena Smit star in Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers.” (Sony Pictures Classics)

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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Cape Cod Wave Magazine covers the character & culture of Cape Cod. Please see our Longform stories.

Tim Miller

Play It Again, Tim

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 (archived shows at 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.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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