Directed By Pedro Almodovar
Sony Pictures Classic
By: Eric G.
Who else would pay tribute to his mother with a film about men with tits, pregnant nuns, and babies with Aids but Pedro Almodovar? All About My Mother, of course, deals with more than just the showy eccentricities of gay culture; it is the story of a woman who witnesses the untimely death of her teenage son and travels to Barcelona to reconnect with the long-forgotten father, whom the son never knew.
Almodovar’s flashy style is in fine form here, but he never gets too carried away. Like A Streetcar Named Desire, the film that serves as the symbolic centerpiece, All About My Mother confronts tragedy and despair head-on, but it remains grounded in humor and universal truth. The film is packed with quirky, unforgettable characters that are expected by now in anything by Almodovar, but this time his flamboyance takes an artful back seat to thematic melodrama.
All About My Mother is almost a backhanded compliment to women. Almodovar’s women are eccentric, needy, depraved, and co-dependant, but he develops the characters enough to see them all through their various neuroses, where they end up empowered, triumphant, and, sometimes, even dead. Almodovar paces the film like a journey with several time spans and symbolic travel sequences, so you don’t feel cheated when the women emerge stronger and wiser.
Almodovar has always juxtaposed screwball zaniness with sentimentality, but All About My Mother doesn’t feel as jagged or quirky as some of his previous works did. Almodovar does, however, manage to sneak down a few bizarre pathways, all the while maintaining enough restraint to keep the plot focused and absorbing. Almodovar’s stylistic innovation has never been in question, but All About My Mother firmly cements the director into the role of storyteller as opposed to just another showy shocker.