There’s something wrong with me. I feel like I’m supposed to love Parallel Mothers as much as Pedro Almodóvar loves filmmaking. If you’ve seen Pain and Glory, you’ll question if you’ll ever love film as much as him. It came as a surprise to me when exiting Parallels Mothers that I was whelmed instead of over or underwhelmed with emotion. I feel like I watched a good Hitchcock-inspired thriller with some inconsistent plot elements. Some parts of the story hit hard, especially the big one. Others I had trouble connecting it to the overall plot. I know I must be missing something, for Mr. Almodóvar’s passion burns brighter than mine.
I wish to make my house look like something out of an Almodóvar film. His embrace for life vividly pops off the screen with his use of all the primary colors. Red, green, and blue. Nobody else can make a movie the way he does without it being denounced as soap opera. From a lifeless hospital room to a moderate apartment to the bustling streets of Madrid, Pedro creates a world that tempts me to book a romantic flight to Spain every time I turn on one of his flicks.
Such an elated style is only fitting for the life of Janis (Penélope Cruz), who is a professional photographer (that still shoots on a Canon 5D?) Sharing the same hospital room with Janis is Ana (Milena Smit). Both mothers await their child’s return from the maternity ward. The lives and personalities of both women couldn’t be starker. Janis seems mostly fulfilled where Ana struggles with depression on top of a litany of failed decisions. The lives of both women soon become interchangeable. Nothing brings someone more together than giving birth. Unfortunately, both women will wind up in a relationship predicated upon half-truths and heartbreaking revelations.
Here’s a good reason to sue a hospital, giving the mom the wrong kid! How Janis or Ana didn’t sue the hospital for neglect shocks me. Maybe people are a little more forgiving in Pedro Almodóvar’s universe? The lineage of Janis’ child is brought to her attention through her former lover Arturo (Israel Elejalde) a geologist. Being a man whose occupation is digging up unearthed ruins may have brought about his suspicions. How he concluded the bloodline of Janis’ child is too convenient. Arturo is so brilliant he could look at an infant and instantly determine if something is awry? Once Janis discovers that she possesses Ana’s child, things go south in a very Almodóvar way.
Pedro Almodóvar is a man who seems to understand people deeply. When moments could come to blows, they’re met with tenderness. Anyone can write a film where a character learns a terrible truth; then, things continue to spiral downhill. Not in a Almodóvar flick. There’s the explosive argument, but wounds are mended. Characters attempt to help instead of hurt each other. The conclusion the picture reaches with Janis and Ana seemed a little out of place.
Arturo’s profession as a geologist leads him to dig up the misallocated remains of victims from the Spanish Civil War. This parallel connects to the final moments of clarity from the film, but it seemed like it may have been trying to say too much when the child swap was plenty to go by. The final frame of everyone wresting together playing fake dead in their graves has made sense over some deliberation, but wasn’t dramatic enough for a half-brained Yank like me. That’s unfortunate since a strong film exists within a picture that gets muddled in its messaging. Still, for any Almodóvar fans out there, my complaints could be seen obtuse. If so, that’s on me, as the movie is certainly worth a rewatch.