• Gaudie Arts

Parallel Mothers (2021)

Pointless, recycled material

by Katerina Gort

Rating: ★★


This review contains some spoilers

Spanish director and writer Pedro Almodóvar re-visits his 1999 hit film All About My Mother in a ghost like shape under the title Parallel Mothers. The overwhelming similarities make it impossible to watch the latter without comparing it to its far better predecessor. Centered on the themes of motherhood, grief, and sisterhood, the two films are populated by a mostly female cast and both include Parallel Mothers’ lead actress Penélope Cruz. This time she plays the elder of the two mothers, Janis, a single mother who is raising a child she discovers isn’t her own. Opposite her, Milena Smit portrays Ana, a young girl who is determined to be a better mother than her own. Having met at the hospital, when both women are about to give birth to their respective children, Ana and Janis rely on each other for comfort; Janis fulfils the maternal role Ana is lacking, as her own mother is mostly absent. The women are later reacquainted when Ana is working at a bar near Janis´ home. Janis asks Ana to move in with her, providing her a home in exchange for support in raising her daughter.

In spite of the blatant similarities it has with Almodóvar’s previous film, Parallel Mothers had the potential to deliver a poignant story about motherhood, womanhood and grief – instead it fails to deliver on any of its promises. The resulting product is a confused, boring, and pointless film, in which Penelope Cruz’s performance is the only redeeming aspect.

This is when the movie stops making any sense. Up until this point, the direction of the film is clear; it is the story about women empowering each other, and how motherhood is transformative. It also shows how traditional family models are not necessary to create a healthy and prosperous environment for both the child and mother. However, the second half of the film destroys any progress made; Janis and Ana become romantically entangled, creating an uncomfortable dynamic between the two. The dialogue becomes repetitive, and there are no longer any consequences to the actions of any of the characters. Plot holes and unresolved storylines are abundant, and the ending feels rushed to the point that it is almost laughable.

In addition Almodóvar insists on an underlying narrative about the Spanish Civil War. This consists of a subplot that revolves around the excavation of a mass grave where Janis’s grandfather’s body is buried. If done with proper care, this storyline might have been very compelling, however it feels like an afterthought or the outcome of two scripts being spliced together at the last minute. This results in a total of three scenes that involve Janis’s grandfather and the grave: the opening scene between Janis and Arturo, an Archeologist who promises to help her excavate her grandfather’s grave and who later in the scene also gets Janis pregnant, a fight scene in the middle of the film where the Civil War is mentioned, and finally the ending sequence.

In spite of the blatant similarities it has with Almodóvar’s previous film, Parallel Mothers had the potential to deliver a poignant story about motherhood, womanhood and grief – instead it fails to deliver on any of its promises. The resulting product is a confused, boring, and pointless film, in which Penelope Cruz’s performance is the only redeeming aspect.