The universe of mothers is something everyone has plenty to say on. But take two storytellers with the gravitas and sparkle of Pedro Almodovar and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who seamlessly slides from actor to director, and you have two extraordinary films with casts that make the stories come alive. DIANE DE BEER reviews:
The great thing about a new Pedro Almodóvar movie is that it is like coming home. It’s about the colours and the characters, the way he tells his stories and the choices he makes. From the start I’ve been a fan.
And because I haven’t yet been back to brick-and mortar-cinemas, I have to depend on what is offered to me. DStv’s Box Office could not have made a better decision than adding Almodóvar’s latest film PARALLEL MOTHERS to its line-up. Not in a million years did I expect that! (The run is finished, but try streaming it somewhere else)
Like the name suggests, it is about mothers but that is about the only thing in this film that is predictable. The rest is like a crazy Almodóvar adventure which makes twists and takes turns to make your head spin. In typical Almodóvar fashion, it’s a story of humanity and even if wild, not that improbable that you can’t take your emotions with you on this ride.
There’s so much that made me happy. I want to live in an Almodóvar world, the way he dresses his people and his rooms, his landscapes and the faces he peoples his films with. All of these appeal to me and take me to a place where I can wallow for a couple of hours.
And then there’s the magnificent Penelope Cruz. She has never done better than in an Almodóvar movie. They get and trust one another and as she grows older, she has also let go and allows him to push her where he wants her to go.
It’s the story of two unlikely mothers-to-be, the one a 40-something and the other just out of her teens (Milena Smit). Together they give birth to their first babies but because of their circumstances, their lives and the outcomes are completely different. And yet they connect through these circumstances that bind them together in a completely fantastic fashion.
Being Almodóvar, there’s also a political thread that runs through the film that plays out both visually and emotionally in a way that rips your heart out. You wouldn’t want it any other way though.
From the leader of the pack, Cruz, to the young Smit, and another Almodóvar regular, Rossy de Palma, they all climb into their characters and before long you’ve forgotten this is only a movie. Don’t miss it, and especially if you don’t know this Spanish filmmaker’s films, have some fun in his world.
And hopefully you have Netflix to access the acting phenomenon Olivia Colman’s latest exposé of feelings in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, THE LOST DAUGHTER, based on the short novel by Elena Ferrante. It’s also a film on motherhood but in this instance coming from a completely different place – and I’m sure on all counts, many women will identify.
I was almost a newly-wed when I decided not to have children. At the time and as I grew older, the fact that I had taken that decision and wasn’t dictated to by perhaps an inability to have children (don’t know, I never tried!), was often disturbing to others. I was called selfish, asked what I would do when I was old and so forth.
And what this film deals with is also a motherhood topic that isn’t often discussed or publicly explored. The title The Lost Daughter already opens many different possibilities, but what is really at the core here is the inability of some women to easily fall into the mothering role. It isn’t that they don’t love their children or even had an unhappy childhood themselves, it simply doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But in our world today (and that before and after us, I suspect), motherhood is sacrosanct.
In Gyllenhaal and Colman’s extraordinary hands and made with an extremely sensitive yet startling vision, the story unfolds in delicate yet dramatic fashion. It takes a while to find your way, especially if you don’t really know what the film’s about. But from the start it grips you as red herrings unfold and tumble out all over the place.
However, yearning, it seems, is the great motivator here. When you discover something in others (and on full frontal display) that you have lacked, it can do strange things to you head.
More than anything though thanks to the teaming of these two talents, it is the unusual story that turns this into such a tour de force. It’s difficult to believe that there are still such taboo topics so part of our everyday lives.
Everything is also enhanced in the film universe by the diversity on all levels that is growing and unfolding by the day. The more stories that are told from different perspectives, the better and more probing our films will be. And in that way, hopefully touch us more deeply, as both these films do so magnificently.
Parallel Mothers is available on DStv Box Office until 1 April 2022, and The Lost Daughter was on local release.