Parallel Mothers

Parallel Mothers ★★★½

Review by Nicholas Barber

Pedro Almodóvar has made some radical and transgressive films in his time, but it’s fair to say that “Parallel Mothers” isn’t one of them. Not that that’s a complaint. The opening film at this year’s Venice Film Festival, “Parallel Mothers” offers many delights, one of which is that it ushers Almodóvar fans back to his comfortingly familiar milieu.

Once again, we get to settle into those stylish apartments and pavement cafes in sunny Madrid (the film is set between 2016 and 2018, so there’s not a face mask in sight); we get to admire the to-die-for furniture and the snazzy clothes which just happen to have some vibrant reds, blues, greens, and yellows; we get to hear Alberto Iglesias’s palpitating orchestral music as the plot twists and tightens; and we get to see a tousled Penélope Cruz acting up a storm, while looking superhumanly gorgeous: her flicking false eyelashes deserve an award of their own.

This is undoubtedly one of Almódovar’s breezier and more accessible domestic dramas. It was shot in and around Madrid in just one month this spring, and the most rebellious thing about the whole project is the poster’s image of a lactating nipple which upset the prudes at Instagram: the film itself is more discreet. But weighty concerns work their way into the story. And in the mean time, la casa de Almódovar is one of cinema’s most inviting places to be.