Pain and Glory - Review
by Miguel de la Cal Moreno
Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, Pain and Glory is a semi-autobiographical tale of Salvador Mallo, (Antonio Banderas) a film director in a spiritual crisis. He does not write, film, or appear in public. He just spends his time contemplating his pains and occasionally escaping to the memories of his years as a child and the moments he spent with his mother.
The film is autobiographical because, while all Almodóvar’s movies are very much stained by his life experiences and spirit, this one feels particularly personal. Not personal in the sense that one must be familiar with his life story to relate to the narrative; but personal in the portrayal of his main character, who, from the hair and the mannerisms to the design of his film posters and the indissoluble love for Madrid, reminds us of Almodóvar himself.
This is the story of a man reaching into his past to have a formative experience that lets him move towards the future. The fantastic settings and clothes, vibrant with saturated red and other primary colours that contrast the retracted expressions of Mallo, give way to whites and sun-filled scenes with dynamic characters in his memories. Banderas’s career’s best acting, portrays Mallo with constrain but tremendous expressivity, only leaving glimpses of the energy that the character must have had in the past.
This juxtaposition of the past and the present humanises Mallo and allows us to learn at the same time as him what our past can teach us. We learn, side by side, how we should not recall our past just to forget it but consider how it can help us to push forward. Pain and Glory is both a deeply humane tale of vulnerability and a tailored gateway into the oeuvre of a film-maker that has much to teach us about ourselves and the lives of the ones around us.