ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER directed by Pedro Almodovar

Film / Video Reviews
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER directed by Pedro Almodovar
Jul 4, 2000, 06:59

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER directed by Pedro Almodovar; Sony Picture Classics, 1999

With All About My Mother, Pedro Almodovar has reinvented the great modern melodrama. Like Douglas Sirk's films from the '50s, to which this film artfully pays homage, it is a Technicolor paean to the womanly art of sacrifice. All women must sacrifice, whether it for a man, for their children, or simply to get one-up on other women. Women will work their fingers to the bone, torture their bodies, prostitute and degrade themselves in a gorgeous, heroic way to make things right with the world. At least in Almodovar's peculiar universe.

In this particular universe, men want to be women, and women are larger than life, taking on almost drag-like sensibilities themselves. Manuela (Cecilia Roth) is a transplant nurse and single mother with a dark past who, upon the sudden death of her beloved only son, travels back to Barcelona to revisit the somewhat sordid life she left behind. She reconnects with her transvestite streetwalker friend Agrado (so named, she says, because she strives to make life agreeable for everyone) and immediately becomes indispensable to everyone around her, including a pregnant nun played by the adorable Penelope Cruz—the skinniest, most gorgeous pregnant nun imaginable. Manuela also becomes inextricably involved with a theatre company performing A Streetcar Named Desire, and like a truly tragic heroine, finds threads of connection between the play and her life, both real and metaphoric.

In faithful soap opera style, there is a mysterious and shocking paternity situation, a haunting death, a life-threatening illness, an evil society matron, an actress hooked on smack, a nurse who just happens to be present at crucial moments, strange coincidences, loopy twists and turns and of course—the show must go on! Like all great women-driven melodramas (All About Eve, Showgirls), this one is chock full of memorable one-liners and catty back talk. Almodovar plays with convention in a style that is lush and full of emotion, while somehow managing to retain a light sense of humor about his unconventional characters. Grab the Kleenex, cause this one's a fabulous and witty weeper.

-Alison Levy

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