Almodóvar is on top form with his latest film

Two mothers, not really parallel at all, come together in this moving melodrama that celebrates the courage of single mothers, while nodding to the unhealed wounds of Spain’s troubled political history. Pedro Almodóvar’s new movie has the warmth and flair of Hollywood’s golden age, yet mixes in just enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

Almodóvar’s perennial collaborator, Penélope Cruz, plays one of the mothers, a stylish photographer, while Milena Smit plays the stern faced teenager she literally bumps into.  The two women’s newborns are whisked away for observational reasons at the same time, and intriguing (albeit a tad far-fetched) consequences ensue. To say more would be to spoil the fun, and might also make the film sound contrived and implausible. Yet the sheer gusto and conviction with which events are played out ensures the plot grips and surely as it entertains, with the process providing a solution to the mothers’ issue being eerily similar to the work carried out by the father of Janis’s child.  

Arturo, played by Israel Elejalde, is an anthropologist working with the historical unit formed under Spain’s historical memory law, and he is devoted to tracing people murdered by Franco during the civil war. As is so often the case with Almodóvar’s films, this seemingly disconnected subplot quickly reveals itself to be a touchstone for the issues facing the mothers. Perhaps that is the real parallel going on here – between Spain’s present day, and its ever present past.