Thursday, February 10, 2022

Parallel Mothers

For a film that centers around a plot point that would be right at home in any soap opera, Parallel Mothers provides a surprisingly strong drama. Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit are strangers who meet in the hospital, both giving birth to their first child. Each will take home a boy, but what they won't realize for quite some time is that each mother was given the other's son.

It's Janis (Cruz) who begins to suspect the truth when the father (Israel Elejalde), a flirtatious archeologist with a wife and no real interest in a more permanent relationship with the photographer, sees no resemblance in the child to anyone in his family. A chance meeting with Ana (Smit) brings the characters back into each others orbit as Janis' suspicions are realized and a gnawing guilt over the truth begins to color all that will follow.

Cruz's collaborations with writer/director Pedro Almodóvar have led to some great performances by the actress and Parallel Mothers is no exception. Smit does good work as well, although the film is more centered from Janis' perspective leading to more screentime for Cruz. It's interesting to watch the mothers' relationship unfold in unexpected ways knowing a bombshell that would change both their lives forever could drop an any moment.

In what could easily devolve into melodrama given the setup, Almodóvar and his stars keep the character-driven drama grounded in the raw emotions that come out of the contrived setup. While the swapped baby storyline makes up the bulk of the film, there is also an ongoing subplot, obviously important to the director, involving the excavation of a mass grave from Spanish Civil War. It's this thread that brought our photographer and the archeologist together at the beginning of the film. The film returns to it periodically while picking up the thread in its final act offering a backdrop of wider events to the more intimate drama we are watching unfold.

  • Title: Parallel Mothers
  • IMDb: link

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