Pain and Glory Review – Antonio Banderas Delivers a Captivating Performance in this Pedro Almodovar Film

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Pain and Glory, from Sony Picture Classics, brings to the screen an insider's view of the Spanish film industry with this insightful, decadent, drug fueled, homage to the cinematic revolution which swept through Spain in the 1970s.

Directed by Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory stars Antonio Banderes, Academy Award winner Penelope Cruz, Asier Eteandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, Cesar Vincete, Asier Flores, Susi Sanchez, Paul Arevalo, Pedro Casablanc, Julian Lopez, Eva Martin, Sara Sierra and Rosalia.


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The film begins in modern day Madrid. Salvador Mallo, played by Antonio Banderas, a well-respected director, who has had his glory days and his painful seasons, is now sedating himself through yet again. As he is physically not well, he has graduated from the prescribed mild pain meds to heroin to dull his senses, from both the physical pain and anesthetize him from the realities that his career, once bright, full of promise and celebrated is a dull throb of nothingness.

It is while he is in this state, we are taken on the journey. He returns to the memorable moments of his life, we meet his mother, Jacinta, played by Penelope Cruz, a beautiful woman living in impoverished circumstances, making the best for her and her son, who is played at this age by Asier Flores. A fierce force in Salvador’s life, she ensures he has an education, that he attends the local catholic school, against his protests, and learns to read and write.

We also travel to Madrid during his most celebrated days as a director. Credited for the explosion of cinema, not only does his films enlighten and transform modern society, the openness of his lifestyle provides the labor pains of a new freedom.


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It is at this time we meet, in the journey, his muse, Alberto Crespo, played by Asier Etxeandia. Creating a role just for him, Salvador nearly destroys Alberto’s career. Some years later, the two again in the middle of their love-hate relationship, Salvador writes his own very personal love story, possibly in an attempt to make peace or sense of his choices. It becomes a very successful one man show, starring Alberto.

We also meet Salvador’s first lover. The man shows up one night, visiting Madrid from Argentina, and for whatever reason, perhaps life outside celebrity is a difficult adjustment, or his female wife and children can’t hold him, or perhaps it was actually, for a season, love, either way he shows up at Salvador’s door. The two reminisce, and the meeting very important to Salvador as he faces his past without a heroin bump and the two decide the past is best served in memory.

After this night, Salvador goes further back to his childhood as he unexpectedly receives an invitation to an event and a picture on the postcard beckons his assistance to bring it to his attention. We find the boy sitting in the chair reading, with the whitewashed walls behind him, and the pink flowers and bright red shirt. A delicate image of a child.


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We find the picture was painted by a local tile worker, Eduardo, played by Cesar Vincente, whom Salvador taught to write after the years in Catholic school gave him a skill no one in the village possessed.

On this day in his memory, Eduardo, sketched him on the inside of a brown paper bag and colored the image. Finishing the tile work, he strips and washes himself. He asks Salvador for a towel and turning without thinking he exposes himself to a very young Salvador who, as an adult, credits that moment as the turning point in the realization of his sexual orientation.

Pain and Glory is both a comedy and drama, as he takes a long look in the rear view he sees the road of life from the vantage point of time. With some moments barely worth with the mile marker, the stake which had been driven so deeply in the moment, and others remain as freshly as if they were planted a new daily.


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In their eight collaboration, Antonio Banderas and Director Pedro Almodovar, are once again igniting the screen in the comedic drama Pain and Glory for which Banderas recently received a Best Actor Award from the Hollywood Film Awards. Banderas also won the Best Actor Award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival where the film debuted.

Pain and Glory is playing in select cities. In Spanish with English subtitle. Check local listings.

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