El Deseo, the Madrid-based production label of Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar and his Bafta-winning producer brother Agustín, has wrapped shooting on its latest feature production, “Madres paralelas,” starring Penélope Cruz. To celebrate the occasion, El Deseo has released a pair of first-look images as well as a behind the scenes clip of the COVID-era shoot.

Joining Cruz as key cast members are Israel Elejalde (“Veneno”) and two long-time Almodóvar collaborators and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” co-stars, Julieta Serrano and Rossy de Palma.

“Madres paralelas” – parallel mothers in English – turns on a trio of mothers — played by Cruz, Gijón and Smit — and expands Almodóvar’s previous depictions of womanhood by turning the film’s focus on imperfect mothers.

Almodóvar began developing “Parallel Mothers” several years ago, but as weeks of Spanish lockdowns turned into months, the filmmaker finally had to time to finish up the screenplay and begin pre-production in October. Shooting then kicked off in late March in and around Madrid, as can be seen in the clip released today, which even in its unedited format bears many of the hallmarks that define Almodóvar’s work.

Masks and protective equipment can be seen on set, as was the case with Almodóvar’s previous production, the award-winning short “The Human Voice” starring Tilda Swinton, one of the first Spanish productions to enlist foreign talent as lockdown restrictions were loosened last summer.

“With ‘Madres paralelas’ I return to the female universe, to motherhood, to the family,” Almodóvar said in a casting announcement for the film in February. “I speak of the importance of ancestors and descendants. The inevitable presence of memory. There are many mothers in my filmography, the ones that are part of this story are very different.

“As a storyteller, imperfect mothers inspire me most at this time. Penélope Cruz, Aitana Sánchez Gijón and the young Milena Smit will play the three mothers in the film, accompanied by Israel Elejalde as the main male character. It is also a collaboration with my beloved Julieta Serrano and Rossy de Palma. ‘Parallel Mothers’ will be an intense drama. Or so I hope,” he added.

“Madres paralelas” is produced by Agustín Almodóvar and Esther García at El Deseo, with Spanish broadcaster RTVE and Netflix both contributing. A theatrical release is planned for Spain by Sony Pictures Entertainment Iberia, while North American, Australian and New Zealand rights were picked up in August by Sony Pictures Classics in a continuation of a longtime relationship which has seen the company collaborate on 12 previous El Deseo productions.

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Madres paralelas Credit: El Deseo