Pedro Almodóvar (director)
23 August 2019 (released)
21 August 2019
Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory isn’t an easy film to like; its much easier to admire as Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) recollects his thoughts of past glories in the film industry, his loves and his early family life. It’s a skilfully, colourfully brilliant meditation on memory, love, loss and finally acceptance.
The opening scene in the early 60’s with his mother Jacinta (played by Penélope Cruz) and the women of the village washing in the river and while singing a flamenco is a delight. After that the film plays almost like a game of rugby in that to progress the ball (in this Salvador) has to go backwards, to then get the momentum to go forward.
Present day Salvador is suffering from a number of ailments, depressed and no longer able to make films. He reacquaints with his old chum Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) whom he hasn’t spoken to for 30 years to revisit a film of theirs from the 80’s that is being reappraised. Alberto introduces Salvador to heroin and that sends him into a glaze and addiction. A glaze that returns him to the grinding poverty of his childhood in a whitewashed cave, his emerging desires when he spies the perfectly sculpted painter, and the relationship with his mother then and the present. (Cruz in the 60’s and the present day by Julieta Serrano).
Back in the present Alberto has a one-man show (The Addiction) that just happens to be caught by Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia) who realises it is his and Salvador’s story and he sets out to contact him. The former lovers meet in a delicate, beautifully poignant scene that ponders what could have been but is ultimately resigned to the present.
The film flits between the three time periods though not as confusing as it may sound does tend to jar. But in some respects that doesn’t matter as Almodóvar has elicited first class performances from the entire cast, in particular Banderas in a complex performance that gets to the core of the troubled Salvador. Boiled down you have a series of vignettes that include some brilliantly realised two handers, but they don’t necessarily sync that well into the overall fabric of the story thus lessening its emotional resonance.