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  Parallel Mothers Baby Mine
Year: 2021
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Stars: Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Rossy De Palma, Julieta Serrano, Carmen Flores, Ainhoa Santamaria, Adelfa Calvo, Julio Manrique, Chema Adeva, Daniela Santiago, Ana Peleteiro
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Janis (Penélope Cruz) is a photographer in Spain who has lucked into taking pictures of Arturo (Israel Elejalde), an anthropologist with a specific interest in uncovering the lost graves of the Spanish Civil War. This is a touchy subject since it is as if the nation has collectively decided to forget and move on from those atrocities, but there are still families who are haunted by the fact they did not have a man around when the women and girls were abandoned, and Janis feels that very deeply. Fortunately, Arturo agrees to take up her case and uncover her grandfather's grave if he can secure the funding...

That's not all Arturo agrees to do, and in this tale of absent men he emerges as the most prominent male character once he has an affair with Janis and she falls pregnant. She doesn't want to be beholden to this man, so tells him the affair is over and she will be a single mother, which leads her to face the childbirth alone, as well as a future without male companionship. However, in the hospital she has met a troubled teen who was abused by some boys in her class, Ana (Milena Smit), and became pregnant herself when she was effectively raped by being pressured into sex against her will.

She doesn't know who the father is, but he is also out of the picture (and seemingly the abusers get away scot free) and once the babies are born, the two women swap telephone numbers as a matter of supporting each other, another example of a Pedro Almodóvar film where women manage to keep themselves afloat in an emotionally perilous world by being there for one another, be they family or close friends. Arturo, for instance, when Janis reluctantly agrees to allow him to see the infant, declares that, wait a minute, the kid looks nothing like me, is she sure that he is the father or is someone else responsible?

Naturally, Janis is offended by the suggestion (though you may be more offended by the sight that the baby playing the daughter has golden earrings (!)), but something about the idea preys on her mind, and as the film begins to skip through the months to propel the plot to where it needs to go, though not in a confusing fashion, she is moved to take action. To say more would be to give away a succession of twists that were purest melodrama, yet presented in such lush colours and emphasis on simple style that you could truly say the spirit of Douglas Sirk was comfortably living on some time past the nineteen-fifties. But there was a motive for harking back to the past, and not only the cinematic past, either.

All the way through there was the weight of history, and the parallels were as much those between Janis and her grandmother, who lost her father when he was executed, as they were between Janis and Ana, who after losing contact match up again as the older woman is feeling guilty about shutting her out (she changed her phone number to prevent anyone else contacting her so she could effectively be alone with the baby). Janis behaves erratically, you could say irresponsibly, and has a maddening tendency to refuse most of the help offered to her, but the film does not judge her, it prefers to understand her through the prism of Spanish society and the demons that loom large from that early to mid-twentieth century era. The final scenes make it clear Almodóvar was getting political, and if this was a shade heavy-handed, it was a tale told with clarity and a sense of satisfaction that all the pieces were falling into place. Music by Alberto Iglesias.

[Own Pedro Almodóvar's BAFTA and Oscar Nominated PARALLEL MOTHERS on Digital Download now and available on Blu-Ray, DVD and Video on Demand from 16th May 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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