Pain and Glory (2019) Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Pedro Almodóvar has been directing films since 1980. Along the way he has gone through notable phases. He’s honed his skills incorporating various genres into his vision of the world, all the while maintaining his trademarks of sharp color palates and a proclivity for the wild side. His latest film Pain and Glory is an openly personal film. Antonio Banderas portrays a thinly veiled version of the director named Salvador Mallo. Mallo is suffering from various ailments. He lives in the shadow of his greatest success as a director: a film he criticized due to the performance of the main actor Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia). Mallo’s criticism of Crespo caused a decades-long rift between the two. Before an anniversary screening of the film, Mallo goes to Crespo’s house to reconcile before seeing him in public. This leads to an unexpected twist causing the director reflect extensively on his youth.

Here is where you might imagine the beginning of a formulaic drama, but the reconciliation between the two takes on an introspective shape and is only one element in Mallo’s journey. Mallo also reflects on his life as a ten-year-old in Francisco Franco’s Spain in the mid-’60s during flashback scenes where Penelope Cruz portrays his mother as they relocate several times. Almodóvar’s typically transgressive humor takes a back seat as the main storyline is an insightful rumination on aging and what it means to continue creating when the drive to do so dulls. Banderas and long-time Almodóvar regular Cecilia Roth as Zulema, another former collaborator who steps in to help the director get his life in order, drive the film. The story gives insight into Almodóvar’s life and philosophy. It’s not your typical music-swelling-at-the-right-time drama. It’s a refreshingly thoughtful film with excellent performances. –Billups Allen (El Deseo)