Repeating his admiration for extremes, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar skirts the edges of melodrama with his captivating film Parallel Mothers. Though some plot points seem ripped from tabloid headlines, the filmmaker grounds his project by creating convincing characters who behave in unexpected, but reasonable ways.
As the title Parallel Mothers implies, the story centers around two women who share similar experiences. Decades apart in age, the women face unexpected pregnancies and choose to have their babies, daughters born the same day in the same hospital. Uh, oh, I see where this is going I thought to myself but to my delight proved only partially correct. Rather than follow the traditional histrionics of soap opera, characters take human steps that keep them in the realm of believable behavior.
This believability also comes through acting, and the filmmaker once more relies on Penelope Cruz to balance the character she plays, a woman whose multiple interests include the need for truth. Embracing truth often feels like hugging a porcupine, requiring Cruz to display a range of emotions, a proven skill in her case. Cruz seems at home in Almodóvar’s world, one toned down from the garish colors and extravagances in my favorite collaboration of theirs, Volver.
Amidst a restrained palette of forest greens and burgundies in Parallel Mothers, Cruz spends time in the kitchen for some skillful action, including preparing a classic potato omelet that almost put me on a plane to Spain. Instead, I sat back and enjoyed seeing the basic ingredients transform into a visually beautiful piece with substance and style. Which describes both the omelet and movie. Parallel Mothers opened in Reno theaters Jan. 28.
(…actually, I already have tickets to Spain and intend to gorge on potato omelets (called tortillas there) later this year…).