All About My Mother is a film that’s chock full of fantastic performances from a cast that includes Cecilia Roth, Penélope Cruz, Antonia San Juan, and Marisa Paredes. Writer and Director Pedro Almodóvar weaves a story that’s not afraid to tackle difficult subject matters such as AIDS, transgenderism, and death, and he does so confidently and effectively. The film reminds me (to an extent) of some of Angela Carter’s work in how it investigates gender, sexuality, and our performance of these, the way that it’s often highly dramatic whilst maintaining the ability to switch to the bawdy when it wishes too.
It follows a rather unusual friendship group, and as with a lot of Almodóvar’s other works it uses these characters to investigate and celebrate different types of femininity. As Roth’s character Manuela returns to Barcelona and looks for work she intermingles with many different figures ranging from a nun (Cruz), to a prostitute, to a transvestite. Each of these characters, and others, are fully developed and powerfully ‘real’, due in part to the wonderful performances throughout the film, but also because of the excellent writing and directing of Almodóvar. Every detail appears precisely calculated and managed, with the end result feeling both simultaneously sharp and effortless. It’s a joy to watch the film work so well, where everybody and every detail comes together excellently.
I’m keeping plot details very light because one of the joys of this film for me was not knowing where it was going to go. I really couldn’t be sure of what direction I was going to be taken in, and even though there are a number of familiar scenarios played out here, the movie is good enough to be able to wrap us up into the events and make us forget that we’ve seen similar ones before. It’s not an easy ride, and has a fairly hefty emotional weight behind it, but the film isn’t out just to make you cry but to also laugh as well. To laugh and take joy in womanhood, in motherhood, and in life more generally.
This one comes highly recommend by me. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!