A Double Feature Review!
Oh wow, writer-director Pedro Almodóvar (Live Flesh, Volver, The Skin I Live In, and Pain and Glory) does it again. Parallel Mothers (Madres paralelas) is a moving and beautiful picture. Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit are both phenomenal. Emotional, reflective, and warm. Eye-popping visuals with a story that blossoms and reflects on a country’s past traumas. Five-stars. Nominated for two Oscars, Best Actress (Penélope Cruz) and Best Original Score, Almodóvar's newest picture is incredibly profound and beautifully told scene after scene. It is a tragedy that Spain decided not to select Parallel Mothers for an International Oscar consideration, instead choosing The Good Boss (which stars Cruz’s husband, Javier Bardem). Spain did this in part for political reasons, which is both frustrating and sad. "The half of the country that is conservative, they don’t like the movie. They don’t like that someone like me is remembering that period, that the mass graves are still there, that the families are demanding desperately to identify the victims. They think that period is finished. But I think it’s not finished – not until we find a solution." – Pedro Almodóvar.
Even with this snub submission from Spain, I was thrilled that The Academy still recognized Parallel Mothers in other categories, like Best Original Score (Alberto Iglesias), and Cruz even broke into the Best Actress category. The film is broken down into two parallel storylines. The first part of this story is between expecting mothers Janis (a fantastic Cruz) and Ana (a wonderful Milena Smit). Both women are single and became pregnant by accident. Janis, middle-aged, is rejoicing that she was able to get pregnant, while Ana, an adolescent, is scared and ashamed of her pregnancy. Janis and Ana meet by chance at the hospital, and from there, Janis and Ana's lives are interwoven. There is a bond between Janis, Ana, and their newborn babies (Cecilia and Anita) that weaves in and out. The second part of this story reflects on Spain's past trauma as a country. Like a history lesson, Almodóvar presents Spain's Francoist dictatorship, which sadly controlled Spain from 1939 to 1975, front and center. During General Francisco Franco's reign of terror over the country, there were many atrocities committed. Atrocities that Spain still has not fully dealt with to this day.
Almodóvar's Parallel Mothers deals with some of these atrocities, namely a mass grave in Janis' home village, where her great-grandfather and other men from that village were killed and buried during the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939). There's an excavation that gives these men (who disappeared) an identity and dignity. Parallel Mothers is a powerful picture that grapples with motherhood, loss, death, and healing. To grow and move on, one must first understand the past. Almodóvar's statement in this film is bold and pointed, as it should be. On top of the strong direction and brilliant acting are the eye-popping costume and production designs (reds, greens, and yellows) and a lively score throughout. I knew that there was going to be something special with this picture during the opening credit sequence, in which colors of red, black, white splatter across the screen. Parallel Mothers is a complex but engaging film crafted by the hands of a master (Almodóvar). As Cruz and Smit's chemistry flourishes scene after scene, a captivating portrait will unveil. I have not stopped thinking about Parallel Mothers since I saw it two weeks ago, and I cannot wait to watch it again. In the end, Parallel Mothers is a film that radiates out of the screen and into one's heart.
Parallel Mothers is rated R (Restricted) Some Sexuality.
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Starring Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Rossy de Palma, and Julieta Serrano.
Flee (Flugt) is a powerful and heartbreaking picture. Boundary pushing, as Flee, blends vivid documentary filmmaking and stunning animation. Emotional, personal, and beautiful. If you were not able to see Flee in theaters, it's now streaming on Hulu. A must-watch. Flee has made history by becoming the first film to be nominated for Best International, Best Documentary, and Best Animated Feature. Flee is another movie that I cannot stop thinking about since I watched it last week. A Danish animated docudrama directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen that follows the true story of a man named Amin Nawabi, who shares his hidden past for the first time, of fleeing his country (Afghanistan). Amin is on the verge of marrying his long-time boyfriend and is a successful academic when he decides to share his hidden story with a close friend for the first time. At 36, Amin shares with us his past of how he fled from Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee 20 years ago. Flee is a bold, personal, and saddening story of how war can tear families, homes, and lives apart. An immigration story that is incredibly humane, as Rasmussen shows the life-threatening dangers that refugees have to go through to escape.
Flee is a powerful movie that will leave a pit inside your stomach, but also finds hope for our society as a whole. We listen and learn Amin's pain as he tells us through the screen of what his family had to do and the experiences that got them to where they are now. Rasmussen's picture blends gorgeous animation with hard-hitting drama and a striking documentary layered underneath. Not only is Flee an immigration story but it's also a LGBTQ story. We learn that Amin knew that he was gay at a very young age but had to keep that part of his life a secret for a long period of time. We travel with Amin and his family as they make their way to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union (1988–1991). Amin goes into detail about the corruption of the Russian police and the human traffickers. It's raw and tragic, but one that people need to hear. Flee is a unique picture in its ability to weave together vivid animation and documentary filmmaking. I am not sure that Flee could not have been told in this way without the animation. Flee is a narrative of displacement and survival that will move one to tears. Genre-bending at the highest order, Flee deserves to win the Oscar for Best Documentary and Best Animated Feature this March. Powerful from the first frame and until the last. Flee is a movie that invites us to come in, listen, and learn.
Flee is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Strong Language | Disturbing Images | Thematic Content.
Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Stream it now on Hulu.
For Your Consideration:
Analysing Horror w/ Lauren
Cup Of Soul Show
In Their Own League
Mashley at the Movies
Mike, Mike, and Oscar
The Movie Oracle
Next Best Picture
Reel and Roll Films
Reos Positive POV
The SoBros Network
Untitled Cinema Gals Project