All About My Mother

on November 05, 1999 by Lael Loewenstein
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Pedro Almodovar is at the top of his game with "All About My Mother," a poignant, at times comedic examination of women in intimate relationships. As good as-if not better than-his most popular film, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," "All About My Mother" revisits some of the same themes of female vulnerability and solidarity, but in a new and profoundly mature way. Cecilia Roth plays strong-willed hospital worker Manuela, whose 18-year-old son's accidental death transforms her life. Reading her son's journals, grief-stricken Manuela realizes that he longed to hear about the father he never knew. Forsaking Madrid for Barcelona, she embarks on a search for the man she left almost 20 years before. During her quest, she encounters an old friend who happens to be a drag queen (the sympathetic Antonio San Juan), a celebrated actress her son revered (veteran star Marisa Paredes), and a young nun who's found herself pregnant (the beautiful Penelope Cruz).
Though these characters appear to have little in common, each in her own way gives Manuela a renewed sense of purpose that will help her recover from her son's death and eventually carry on. To the drag queen, she becomes a sister; to the actress, an assistant; to the nun, a mother figure.
Using his trademark bright color palette and bits of nearly farcical comedy to offset the occasionally somber story, AlmodĀ¢var creates an impressively rich, evocative film replete with uniformly fine performances. Paying homage to cinema legends with a script that overtly references "All About Eve" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," the director has created similarly memorable heroines of his own. Yet despite those antecedents (and others, like Cassavetes' "Opening Night"), this film is pure AlmodĀ¢var. Its combination of camp and compassion, its flair for the dramatic and keenly observed characters, and its constant ability to surprise and challenge the viewer are rare indeed. Starring Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes and Penelope Cruz. Directed and written by Pedro Almodovar. Produced by Esther Garcia. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Comedy/Melodrama. Spanish-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 101 min.
Tags: Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Penelope Cruz, Pedro Almodovar. Produced by Esther Garcia. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Comedy/Melodrama
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