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6 reviews, 33 user ratings

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All About My Mother
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by Robert Flaxman

"An emotional, sometimes heartbreaking experience."
5 stars

Part of the reason why most European films fail to find an audience in the United States is that so few of them adhere to the more straightforward narrative structure that people expect out of Hollywood films. If more of these films were as emotionally affecting as Pedro Almodóvar's All About My Mother, however, they might stand a better chance.

All About My Mother spins a number of narrative threads, not all of which it is especially interested in cleaning up. The basic plot follows Manuela (Cecilia Roth), who lives in Madrid with her 17-year-old son. When he is killed in a car accident, she travels to Barcelona, from where she had moved just before her son was born, and almost immediately meets an old friend, the transvestite Agrado (Antonia San Juan). Though Manuela's life in Madrid was a very professional one, as a nurse, she clearly has a lot in her past that is quite the opposite.

Almodóvar's story leads Manuela to encounters with a nun (Penélope Cruz) and an actress (Marisa Paredes), and with every move the plot seems to get looser, fanning out and getting dangerously close to collapsing into an amorphous blob of narrative strands. By the film's end, Almodóvar seems to be rushing to close things up, running "two months later" and "two years later" as titles within a couple minutes of each other.

The plot's little side trips, meta-referential sequences, and generally blithe demeanor make the film a prime candidate for dismissal on the charge that not enough is going on. In fact, a ton is going on in All About My Mother; the trick is that most of it hits at the emotional level.

When Manuela loses her son, her trip back to Barcelona is made to find his father, and not to meet up with old friends or start another life - but that's what ends up happening. Unabashedly feminist, the film gives Manuela another chance at motherhood, caring for the ailing nun Rosa. Rather than concerning itself too much with plot, All About My Mother uses one of the worst events in a woman's life - the loss of her child - to springboard itself into an examination of how the lives of several women intertwine in various ways.

The main focus of the film is Manuela, whom Almodóvar treats so well she might as well be his own mother. From her job to her everyday life, Manuela lives to help people in one way or another, even when she tells them she can't. This gives her something in common with Rosa, who works with AIDS patients and is planning to travel to war-torn El Salvador before she falls ill. Agrado tells people she got her nickname because others find her agreeable.

To Almodóvar's credit, the film isn't just a big girls-are-great lovefest. Rosa's mother is a conflicted character who loves her daughter but is fed up with her choices, and Manuela gets caught in the middle of the tumultuous relationship between the actresses and lovers Huma (Paredes) and Nina (Candela Peña).

In both its light and its dark moments, however, All About My Mother is sentimental, touching, and real. The women who populate Almodóvar's world don't live ordinary lives, but behind all of them are the personality traits any of us would recognize in ourselves or the women we know; the strangeness of their lives produces color, but it doesn't produce falsity.

Though a bit scattershot in some respects, All About My Mother is still a triumphant film for its emotional resonance alone. With top-shelf, affecting performances from back to front, the film's cast creates a beautiful tapestry that may be short on plot but is long on detail. The film's soul, always close to the surface, comes bursting forth near the end, and it's a wonderful thing to behold - Almodóvar doesn't just show us what it's like to be a woman, he reminds us what it's like to be human.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=3448&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/26/04 05:16:59
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User Comments

4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
11/27/06 William Goss Well-acted, and picks up as it proceeds, but still mildly overrated melodrama. 4 stars
8/16/06 Ellen Veden Great Directing and Acting...Awesome 5 stars
4/12/06 anthonyuk superb, another masterpiece from pedro 5 stars
3/24/05 Toes And what about my Daddy.... 1 stars
11/23/04 Sydney Ulmer Almodovar is truely an inspiring director - truely awesome 5 stars
2/07/04 CC Yeah whats the Fuss 1 stars
1/09/02 Tam Fascinating & unusual, with top acting & great characters, but could have ended better. 4 stars
12/16/01 Andrew Carden Too Bizzarre and Confusing To Be Good...OK Plot, but Bad Acting. 3 stars
12/08/01 dfhydf hdfh 4 stars
12/02/01 Hum something very special 5 stars
10/22/01 Soggy Bottom Boy Be patient for the first 15 minutes, you'll be rewarded by a powerful, crazy movie! 5 stars
7/07/01 Reini Urban Almodovar is again getting better. Others became worse going sentimetal. Fine to see. 5 stars
5/26/01 Basil I'll admit I cried. 5 stars
4/09/01 ChErRyRiPe Len just doesn't know a good movie when he sees it, this was touching and fucking awesome! 5 stars
2/24/01 teresa harvey the best film i've seen in years, roth & paredes are magnificent 5 stars
2/22/01 trashstar Delightful, Cecilia Roth shines as do all the cast. Much less manipulative than his others. 5 stars
2/20/01 Rocket Boy Almodovar's best since "Women...", and the best of 1999. 5 stars
2/06/01 Trashstar Amazing, one of those movies where you sit and watch until the credits are finished dazed. 5 stars
12/23/00 Bev Clark Sublime. It moved me to tears (and that has never happened before!) 5 stars
11/11/00 Steve probably the best and most enjoyable film of 1999 5 stars
10/15/00 The Bomb 69 strong writing and acting, interesting to watch the main character come full circle 5 stars
10/04/00 Spetters Almodovar´s best!! 5 stars
9/08/00 neilb great films are great films, no matter the language 5 stars
8/08/00 Mic Pacing a bit rushed at times but a marvellous film nonetheless. 5 stars
6/13/00 ferma lekesizalin I loved the way almodovar incorporated the subtext of A Streetcar Named Desire to his movie 5 stars
4/25/00 Pix Love this new Almodovar 5 stars
3/29/00 TIGGER It was absolutely beautiful. Cecilia Roth made me ball my eyes out! Just great! 5 stars
3/21/00 Matthew Smith a magnificent film, beautifully acted by the women 5 stars
2/15/00 Tatiana Cepero Masterpiece by Almodovar,very dramatic and realistic 5 stars
1/05/00 Heather Almodovar releases another masterpiece 5 stars
12/19/99 Mr Showbiz For Almodovar, a more mature work, and the most heartfelt tribute to women he's ever made. 5 stars
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  24-Nov-1999 (R)



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