Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Year: 1999 Runtime: 101 minutes
Rating: Rated R for sexuality including strong sexual dialogue, language and some drug content.
IMDB rating: 7.9/10 Tomatometer: 93%
Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother) is an amazing film by the internationally acclaimed Spanish director, Pedro Almodóvar. He creates an environment rich with humorous eccentric characters who deal with love, loss, grief, resilience, and compassion in a celebration of femininity. This screwball melodrama is extremely fast paced taking you through a dizzying series of coincidental events spanning several years. The direction, pacing, acting, bright colors, and fantastic music all combine to give the film a very peculiar feel.
Set in Spain, it follows the story of Manuela, the single mother of her 17 year old son, Esteban. She’s a nurse for the organ transplant section of the hospital. Her son is an aspiring writer. For his birthday, they go to see a stage production of A Streetcar Named Desire. After the play, they wait in the rain to get the main actress Huma’s autograph. Esteban chases after her as she speeds away in a taxi, only to be hit by a car. Manuela holds her dying son in her hands.
This sets off the series of the events for the rest of the movie. Manuela has kept the identity of Esteban’s father a secret from him his entire life, claiming he had already passed away. As she comes to grip with the death of her son, she decides confront her past and leave Madrid for Barcelona to find her son’s father, who her son is named after, to let him know the tragic news.
Now after 18 years, Esteban Sr. has transformed into a transvestite named Lola. In her search for Lola, Manuela first encounters an old mutual friend of theirs, Agrado, a wild and caring transvestite. Through Agrado, Manuela meets Rosa, a young nun, played by Penelope Cruz, who helps rehabilitate the local prostitutes. Rosa is bound for El Salvador to help over there only to suffer her own tragic event, and she ends up living with Manuela.
As it turns out, Manuela ends up getting a job as the personal assistant of Huma, the actress her son admired. Manuela helps Huma handle her drug addicted lover, Nina. And soon, all the characters in the film become intermingled.
The film pays homage to old Hollywood classics like “All About Eve” and “A Streetcar Named Desire”. All the characters in the movies are all on their own journey through life. As they all struggle, they all develop a friendship and help each other out with affection.
This is one of Almodóvar’s best films so far. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This is the first movie reviewed of his on Spanish-Language, but it won’t be the last. On deck are Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), Hable Con Ella (Talk to Her), and Volver.
When I watch films, I’m very aware of the feeling they create, and I really value films that can create strong feelings. This is certainly one of them. It’s difficult to describe, but Almodóvar creates a vibe that’s quite different than any other film I’ve seen. It’s a very unique world. For some reason, it reminded me of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, and of course some of Almodóvar’s other films.
If you are open-minded about sexuality and comfortable with sexual content, I definitely recommend this film. If you’re learning Spanish, there are some cultural differences shown in the film as well, and as always it makes good practice. Check it out and let me know what you think.