Pedro Almodóvar has written and directed 23 feature films since 1978; each one carries his unique style, yet he manages to keep surprising audiences. “Parallel Mothers” may be his best and most accessible; it features his frequent outrage at government oppression and deceit, mixed with great compassion for his characters.
Almodóvar has had shockingly few Oscar nominations, but this film could wind up with bids for him, for best picture and for star Penélope Cruz.
The filmmaker’s brother, Agustin Almodóvar, has been his producer since the 1987 “Law of Desire.” That’s fitting, since families are at the center of many of the films, including this one — but they’re not necessarily traditional families.
Says producer Almodóvar, “I think ‘Parallel Mothers’ gives an interesting perspective on maternity and family. This is one of the films in which Pedro refers to families based on love, rather than on biology.” “Parallel” also offers Cruz a terrific role. Almodóvar says of the new film, “Penélope Cruz gives a magisterial performance; it’s a master class in acting.”
The producer says that with each new film, “I’m very lucky to be there from the beginning, when a script is just an idea.
“I play two roles. One is to support Pedro during his creative process, specifically in doing research or information he needs for the film. The other role is more technical: finding funds to make the film. I keep those two things very separate because I don’t want economic constraints to affect Pedro’s creative choices.”
Did they know during production that this film was special?
“We never really know. We’re always working with uncertainty and that’s always a challenge, entering new territory. That’s stimulating to me as a producer and to Pedro as a writer-director. We always ask that a script takes us into new places.”
He adds, “Pedro likes to work with characters facing a moral dilemma.” In “Parallel Mothers,” Cruz’s character is dealing with two dilemmas: an atmosphere of secrecy and lies that go back to the Franco era, “and a private truth, which she’s incapable of confronting right away,” says Almodóvar.
Aside from the work of his brother and Cruz, Agustin notes, “Also, you have the soundtrack by Alberto Iglesias and the photography by José Luis Alcaine. All this makes the film an amazing collaboration of artists.”
Pedro Almodóvar personally has only been nominated for two Oscars, as writer and director of the 2002 “Talk to Her,” winning for original screenplay.
Of his previous 22 films, only three received Oscar nominations for foreign-language/international film: “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988), “All About My Mother” (which won, 1999) and “Pain and Glory” (2019). Spain, for whatever reasons, often fails to choose his films for submission.
When “Pain and Glory” opened, star Antonio Banderas talked with Variety about the 1982 San Sebastian premiere of “Labyrinth of Passion,” saying the audience was passionate, pro and con, with vocal reactions to the film.
“I realized Almodóvar was more than a movie director; there was a social movement attached to the way he was expressing himself.” Banderas added the filmmaker was part of “a revolution that shook the foundation of Spanish cinema and Spanish morality.”
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman reviewed “Parallel Mothers” at the Venice fest and proclaimed it his best since “All About My Mother.” He added, “‘It is as serious as any film Almodóvar has made but he hasn’t let go of his luminously light, beguiling puckish side … and Cruz acts the part with a mood-shifting immediacy that leaves you breathless.”