Pain and Glory is a Stunning return to form for Pedro Almodóvar

This is a stunning return to form for Pedro Almodóvar, consolidating the success of Julieta after the misfire of I’m so Excited. Just as his previous film revolved around a woman confronting the ghosts of her past, here there is a similar sense of that lost continent of memory, as a middle-aged filmmaker tries to make sense of his past and present life.

Antonio Banderas is superb as the troubled Salvador Mallo, worried over his health, his mother, and what is the point of it all. Asier Etxeandia is just as good as his estranged acting colleague, while steely eyed Julieta Serrano is too close for comfort as his ageing Mum. Alberto Iglesias’s haunting score perfectly matches cinematography from José Luis Alcaine that is so achingly beautiful it’s almost distracting.

This is a film that shifts nimbly between the past (where everything is sun drenched and everyone is beautiful) and the disquiet of a drug fuelled present. More a collage of events than a narrative, this episodic journey builds piecemeal into a portrait of a man struggling to cope, but does so without ever lapsing into autobiographical indulgence. In its final, fleeting moments we understand how Penélope Cruz could possibly stand in for Serrano – a shift in tone that should have you re-evaluating everything you’ve seen.