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The newest fillm by Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar is essentially a filmed play that lays bare the flaws in the director's recent writing.

The films of Pedro Almodóvar have always existed on the knife edge between soap and melodrama, between art and kitsch. In that regard Madres Paralelas, his 22nd feature film, fits in snugly within his oeuvre.

But while in his prime arresting, boundary-pushing visuals often made up - or even enhanced - narrative issues, his newest is essentially a filmed play that lays bare the flaws in Almodóvar's recent writing.

There is no shortage of interesting themes and storylines in Madres Paralelas yet the director too sparingly uses them to up the tension, turn on the screws and draw you into the story. In fact, the picture appears to solely exist under a bell jar, as a well-manicured singular world, populated by good actors, but always keeping the viewer frustratingly at a distance.

Even the one innovation Almodóvar inserts in Madres Paralelas, an uncharacteristically political message about the importance of historical remembrance in a country still grappling with its fascist past, falls entirely flat, resulting in a film about identity that lacks one of its own.

release: 2021

director: Pedro Almodovar

starring: Penelope Cruz, Milena Smit, Aitna Sanchez-Gijon, Rossy de Palma


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