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MOVIES: Parallel Mothers - Review

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Pedro Almodóvar is the master of colour, a filmmaker of passion, anguish, love and character with an entire genre to call his own. His latest, Parallel Mothers, feels like it could have come from no other, an entirely unique affair centred around a baby-swap case that calls back to the likes of Hirokazu Koreeda’s Like Father, Like Son, when two mothers in a hospital have their babies unknowingly swapped when they share the same ward – bonding in the process.

It’s a fascinatingly enriching story that builds off the back of a simple premise – both Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit have an in-built, natural chemistry that pays off dividends as the film progresses and they explore their unique bond together – Almodóvar is always careful to give this two characters personality, a history – and a soul. Cruz’s Janis is tied to the history of Spain – this is Pedro Almodóvar addressing the sins of Franco and the multiple unmarked graves that lie in the heart of country. Janis’ quest to find her ancestor’s identity leaves for an entirely personal, complex affair – and the way the film combines two seemingly unrelated storylines works in a way that never feels odd or jarring, despite the criticisms – and it benefits by the fact that just how good the characters are.

The usage of colour is always vivid and the set-design especially in apartments is subtle but noticeable, it makes them feel real and lived in not just movie sets for characters to walk around in. This is elevated by the cinematography - José Luis Alcaine, an Almodóvar regular – knows what makes his movies work and both combine to make two halves of a collective whole – Alcaine is as influential to the “Almodóvar genre” as Almodóvar is himself – few directors are uniquely stylised enough to blend melodrama with this rich history and symbolism yet make it work so superbly, but Parallel Mothers never feels disjointed – the two storylines interweave sparsely but necessarily, and Smit’s Ana is never ignored or brushed aside – her personality is as rich and as well-developed as Janis. It’s fascinating to watch the two bond – Janis tells her about her name whilst a Janis Joplin song plays on the radio, and as the pair bond – the movie shifts tones, filming only what is necessary – don’t expect any establishing shots here, the movie cuts straight to the action – and the sets themselves, whilst rich and alive, feel like background noise – alluring but not distracting, in a good way.

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