Parallel Mothers

Parallel Mothers ★★★

The most I’ve actually enjoyed watching an Almodóvar film in years (though even that’s probably just damning with faint praise); the breakneck plot’s high-melodrama swirl of revelations and undoings and revisions a welcome relief after the blandly sober restraint of his last two films. And yet, for perhaps among the most defiantly apolitical of world-cinema titans, the grafting of Janis and Ana’s tortured pas de deux onto the unburied ghosts of the Spanish Civil War can’t help but feel like a clunky, half-baked overreach. Janis pointedly wears a “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt at one point (after a cover shoot of a trans model no less [take that, Adichie!]), one of those token gestures toward a politics that makes a point without actually having to articulate an argument, and it ultimately serves as reminder of just how superficially political the filmmaker’s actually comfortable being. “Domestic problems, nothing serious.” The occasional beauty of Almodóvar’s world, of course, lies in the way domestic problems are ultimately deadly serious stuff, and all the parental anxiety and strange rites of private grief and reaching for familial bonds would have been more than enough without insisting on trying to manufacture their echoes in the victims of unexamined collective histories.

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