Play It Again, Tim – The Bond of Mothers in the Almodovar Drama

“Parallel Mothers” by Pedro Almodovar considers the challenges and responsibilities associated with the family.

True to its name, it focuses on motherhood, but it also delves into the differences between blood relatives and those we choose to consider family, how people set various boundaries when it comes to commitment in relationships and our ties to our ancestors.

In typical Almodovar fashion, “Parallel Mothers” (R, 123 minutes, playing Cape Cinema in Dennis, opening Jan. 28 at Waters Edge Cinema in Provincetown) portrays life as complex and messy. The characters are flawed and confused. They make mistakes and harm others with questionable decisions. They struggle with their own desires against the needs of others. They are also capable of warmth, kindness and forgiveness.

Almodovar offers a balanced and realistic view of these characters, but he gives the feeling that he cares about them, sympathizes with them, maybe even likes them. Rather than this attitude compromising the film, it improves it. He deepens it.

Penelope Cruz, right, and Milena Smit star in Pedro Almodovar’s ‘Parallel Mothers’. (Sony Pictures Classics)

The title’s parallel mothers are professional photographer Janis (Penelope Cruz) and teenage Ana (Milena Smit). Single and pregnant, the two strangers share a room in a hospital, give birth the same day and forge a strong bond. Their lives will intertwine from this point on as they deal with love, parenthood, heartache and loss.

There is also a subplot involving Franco’s atrocities during the Spanish Civil War. While interesting on its own, it feels forced when tied to the rest of the story, leading to a finale that doesn’t pack the intended punch.

Overall, however, the film is compelling, as we watch the two central characters sort out their lives.

Among other things, “Parallel Mothers” provides an excellent showcase for its star, Cruz. This is her eighth collaboration with Almodovar, and she is exceptional in it, expressing a wide range of emotions in a performance that is always authentic. She and her manager are one hell of a team. ***½ (out of four)

**Click here for Tim Miller’s previous film reviews for Cape Cod Wave**

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Tim Miller

Play it again, Tim

Tim Miller is a Cape Town-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and Tony Raine host “Tim ‘n’ Tony’s Rock ‘n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and (archived broadcasts on He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore it completely.