Rated R for heavy sexual content, including nudity (I think.) There's a lot of language and the sexuality happens on screen. Oh, and it comes out of nowhere at times. You might think that the next scene couldn't possibly be intense sex, but you'd be wrong. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodovar
Okay, I'm about to write the filthiest joke I've ever written on this blog. I try to keep this blog very PG, but I absolutely nailed a joke while watching the movie and I need to save it for posterity. There's a scene where the eponymous Parallel Mothers do the do. In that moment, I wondered if the movie should have been named Perpendicular Mothers. Yeah, I'm proud of that one. Maybe you're not, but I stand by that joke.
I may have made a big mistake with this one. I think that this is a Netflix film...that I purchased. Listen, I have to make a mistake every once in a while. Sure, I'm not likely to get rid of Netflix any time soon. But at least I can say that I'm now the proud owner of an overtly erotic melodrama. You know, besides Call Me By Your Name. It's just that I'm always a little torn by having to write about last Academy Award nominee for the year. I'm always glad to watch another Pedro Almodovar movie, but I've never been in love with Almodovar. There's always this quality about his films that make me appreciate watching them. But I also can't deny that there's also something soap-operaish about his movies as well. Parallel Mothers, in some ways, might be the most egregious example of that melodramatic vein that Almodovar embraces. I honestly believe that this reads like a philosophical scenario more than an actual story. Imagine someone took the trolley-car scenario and then added a lot of sex to it. That would basically get you to Parallel Mothers.
And it's not like it isn't telegraphed. At least to a certain point, the movie is extremely telegraphed. When both children are separated at the hospital, there's this aggressive attention to the plot of women raising these kids. But there's what is considered plausible and what we actually get in this movie. Parallel Mothers keeps taking what could be a heightened version of reality and then keeps going. I could see the story of two women unknowingly raising another person's child. Maybe, just maybe, they discover the truth later in the story, creating a moral question that could be explored. But then the movie just keeps going. These women are in each other's lives. Then one of the kids dies and the other knows that it is her biological child that dies. Then the two have a steamy relationship despite being wildly different ages. Then there's this whole separate plot about discovering the victims of a genocide (which I hate to treat flippantly, but for the sake of "just too much", I feel like I have to bring it up). And yet, there's something very entertaining about the fact that this is a melodrama.
Almodovar makes a fun film. I mean, these movies tend to be kind of depressing, but it's what the core of drama is really all about. While nothing is aggressively shocking, Almodovar thrives in making us inhale in anxiety as another shoe drops and that's what makes the film worth watching. Characters are going to be terrible to each other because cool heads prevailing does almost nothing for interesting storytelling. Instead, people have to continue to make poor decisions. But that actually leads me to the final shot. I appreciate what Almodovar is doing with the connection between the lost dead and the lost daughter (no allusion intended) of Janis. Because that is super cool. But the actual dive into the lost of a genocide, an abandoned generation, doesn't really come into the forefront of the story. If anything, it feels more like business than something that is deeply personal to the characters in this story. It makes them come across more like intellectuals than it does actually sell the notion that all of these people have been separated from families against their will.
Perhaps Almodovar wanted to stress the notion that reality is a melodrama. I can't get over it. The main story is really absurd, but the connection between the A-story and the B-story almost feels like it is justified. There's just a slip there that isn't working for me like it should be. And again, I'm distant from the events. Heck, this movie gave me something to learn about because I'm woefully ignorant on the events that this movie refers to. That's on me. But from an outsider's perspective, I wish that there was something just more concrete about what I was watching in the film.
But as much as I gripe about the choices that Almodovar makes, I still really liked it. I mean, in no way is it one of my favorite movies and I can't imagine watching this movie again for any reason, shy of intellectual benefit. But Almodovar's method of storytelling is fun, despite being beautiful at the same time. The acting is pretty great, so much so that the film doesn't ask me to fully invest in the reality of the situation. Almodovar is always a good time. It just doesn't need to be as sexual as it always is.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.