Parallel Mothers Review

Beauty found in immediate fear strikes several emotional chords throughout Parallel Mothers. It is, after all, the expected and desired effect director Pedro Almodóvar clamours for. His earnest pursuit of the similarities between grief, fear and love are perceptible in two mothers who give birth at the same time. Underlying tones of the Spanish Civil War and its impact on the characters, the beauty of a flame passed from generation to generation, moving the audience to and fro between characters with little or much connection to those in unmarked burials and the future they have for themselves and their children, is stunning. Almodóvar paints an extraordinary picture of human history that feels a tad too clinical at times, but even then there is great beauty within.

Naturally, that great beauty found throughout Parallel Mothers comes from the lack of blemish and clean-cut surroundings of a world fascinated by a hip and fresh fashion. Almodóvar can be proud of and despair at the technical cleanliness of his feature. While they paint an idyllic picture for the opening moments, fractured nicely by the personal quibbles that surround clean streets and smart-looking characters, it does feel as though it goes against the real world. There are feelings from these characters, especially the pairing of Penélope Cruz and Israel Elejalde, that feel comfortable moving without a stronger, dirtier undertone to them. They wander through existence with clean and appropriate lifestyles, and none of it feels all too real. It feels too artificial, especially when contrast for the sake of it, rather than as a genuine or well-carved disparity between two couples.

Wine flows, characters draw comparisons between the work of themselves and other vague historical figures in that Almodóvar style, and it makes Parallel Mothers all the better. It is a film that lives and dies on whether an audience cares for the relationship at the heart of its work. Parallel Mothers eventually, naturally, toy with the single mother avenue of living, the shock of it all and the subsequent impact it takes not just on those around them, but the mother themself. Cruz and Milena Smit are both naturals here, two very strong performances that show different parts of life and Spanish culture. Their reactions are, naturally, different and explore the realm of possibilities available and shut off to those dealing with pregnancies.

Their fear, emotional range and the delicate situation is presented well and uncomfortably at times. Parallel Mothers is great in its exploration of pregnancies, and how generations need to look out for one another in times of stress and abandonment, and Cruz and Smit show that affectionately so. The bond of strangers waiting for the next stage of their lives as compared to the lives that they used to live is both touching and extraordinarily beautiful in both its simplicity and grounded nature. The maturity of the topic, presented by a natural behind the camera, is exciting. But the almost clinical approach to the world around these distant characters derails portions of the build-up and even with its twists and turns, feels unnatural unless heavily reliant on the two leading performers.

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