Parallel Mothers Review – Emotional Drama Delivers Authentic Character Driven Performances

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Parallel Mothers, from Sony Pictures Classics, brings to the screen the story of loss, anguish, and rebirth as two women, who meet while in labor bond over their birthing experiences, and build a life changing friendship.


The film begins with Janis, played by Penelope Cruz, a fashion photographer, shooting a book jacket of an anthropologist/archeologist, played by Israel Elejalde. Janis who is from a small town outside of Madrid, has a story, passed down from her mother involving the missing mean in her town and how they were taken by soldiers, forced to dig their own graves, and then murdered. She explains this to Arturo. He agrees. The two meet up after the photoshoot for dinner and drinks. After dinner they end up sleeping together.

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Nine months later she is in labor. She is sharing her hospital room with a young single woman, Ana, played by Milena Smit. Both are single and became pregnant by accident. Janis, middle-aged, doesn't regret it and she is overjoyed. The other, Ana, an adolescent, is scared, repentant and traumatized. It isn't until much later that we understand why.

Janis tries to encourage her while they move like sleepwalkers along the hospital corridors. The few words they exchange in these hours will create a very close link between the two, which by chance develops and complicates, and changes their lives in a decisive way.

The two are parallel in the delivery process, each advancing through the stages until simultaneously, they give birth. Each are finally back in their shared room with their daughters.

Ana, who is much younger, feels like they made a bonded through the time in the hospital and gives Janis her phone number and the two-part ways.

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Times, as it always does, flies by and soon, Janis' daughter is getting older. Her father, Arturo, happens to call and invite Janis to dinner. Over drinks he tells her the historical society has agreed to help finance the find the mass grave.

She invites him to meet his daughter and when he looks at her, he explains that he doesn't see the resemblance. His lack of interest, and his immediate attempt to question the paternity, is all too common and translates to the audience as a deadbeat dad. Soon the audience is drawn into the mystery.

Two years has gone by, since each of the women gave birth, and Janis, is back behind the camera, and like every mother, running through the babysitter's, unable to find the one who understands the nuances of a new mother and the now toddler.

As she is waiting for coffee, she runs into Ana, now working as a waitress. She has totally changed her appearance. As they are talking Janis asks her about her baby and we find out her baby has died of SIDS. Janis, who by this time, has allowed the words of her lover to overtake her emotions, decides to invite Ana to be her new nanny, which allows her to have the comfort of a baby.

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Parallel Mothers delivers a contemporary single mother drama filled with emotional heartbreak, the challenges of childcare, while trying to maintain a career and suddenly find the world collapsing and confronting every parent's worst nightmare.

Both Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit are convincing in their portrayals as they begin to give birth. The give dynamic performances throughout that are authentic and emotional.

Parallel Mothers has been a favorite throughout the year at various film festivals including the opening film at Venice Film Festival, and the closing night film at the New York Film Festival, and the closing night film at AFI Film Festival.

Parallel Mothers opens in limited released December 24, 2021.  

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Country: Spain.

Runtime: 123 minutes

Release Date: December 24, 2021.

Language: Spanish with English subtitles.

Director: Pedro Almodóvar 

Producer: Agustin Almodovar, Esther Garcia, Cesar Pardinas.

Cast: Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Israel Elejalde, Julieta Serrano, Rossy De Palma.

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