All About My Mother

Left: Cecilia Roth as
  Manuela.
Right: Marisa Paredes
     as Huma Rojo
All About My Mother

Left: Cecilia Roth as
  Manuela        
Right: Penélope Cruz
  as Sister Rosa
All About My Mother

Left: Cecilia Roth as      
         Manuela.
Right: Eloy Azorín as
    Esteban
All photos courtesy of
Sony Pictures Classics,
all rights reserved.

© 2006 SONY PICTURES
ENTERTAINMENT, INC.
© 2006 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.


        When I first viewed ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER at the New York Film Festival
and reviewed it for another website, I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with the
other films of Pedro Almodóvar, so I wasn't fully able to appreciate the genesis of
this movie. I simply embraced it and enjoyed it, praising it for its maturity. I was
also rooting for it to take home the 2001 Academy Award for Best Foreign
Film -- which it did.

        Now, having schooled myself a little in the oeuvre of the filmmaker, I can
see that Almodóvar had begun to toy with some of the ideas included in the film
as far back as 1995. The opening scene in
FLOWER OF MY SECRET (1995)
is basically the same as an important sequence in this film. In both movies, a
woman named Manuela is acting in a scene related to organ donation. Whereas
in
FLOWER OF MY SECRET, the character remains on the sidelines, in
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, she takes center stage and is portrayed by the
wonderful Cecelia Roth.

        Manuela is a single mother to Esteban (Eloy Azorín) who aspires to be
a writer. It's his birthday and Manuela has presented him with a copy of a
novel by Truman Capote. The young man also wants to see his favorite actress
Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes) perform in Tennessee Williams'
A STREETCAR
NAMED DESIRE
. Following the show, Esteban decides he must get the
actress' autograph and while in pursuit is involved in a horrific accident.
Manuela soon finds herself in an ironic situation and she soon sets off to find
the boy's long lost father.

        Heading to Barcelona where her ex-husband was last known to be living,
Manuela meets up with an old friend Agrado (Antonia San Juan), a transsexual
hooker who passes on news of Manuela's former spouse. He is now Lola, and he
has disappeared. But not before he began a relationship with Sister Rosa
(Penélope Cruz), a young novice who works among the prostitutes dispensing
care, kindness and information about HIV.

        By chance the same production of
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is
playing in Barcelona and Manuela goes to see the play again. (As a young
woman she had appeared in an amateur production, so the drama holds
special feelings for her.) She goes backstage and gets caught up in Huma's
personal drama with her lesbian lover co-star Nina (Candela Peña) who is
appearing as Stella. Nina, though, has a drug problem that often threatens the
relationship with Huma. Before long, Manuela is working for Huma as her
personal assistant and one evening in an Eve Harrington moment, gets to play
Stella. By this time, she has also become a surrogate mother to the pregnant
Rosa.

        So much of the film revolves around Williams' line about "depending on
the kindness of strangers" as well as the various mother figures. Manuela
is the obvious mother, but Rosa is pregnant, Huma serves as a mother to
Nina and later Agrado will assume Manuela's post and mother Huma.  

        
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER stands as one of Almodóvar's finest
 accomplishments. Yes, on some level it skirts melodrama, but even
 on multiple viewings, the film stands up. It is a rich and beautiful tribute
 not only to the director's own mother -- but also to the women involved in the
 film. Roth, Cruz and Paredes are veterans who have previously worked with
 Almodóvar, yet he has somehow managed to tap into previously unseen
 aspects of them, so that they each achieve a career high with this movie.
 San Juan is also quite memorable. This film is as close to a masterpiece as
 the director has ever produced.


                          Rating:                 A -
                          MPAA Rating:      R for sexuality including strong sexual dialogue,
                                                               language and some drug content
                          Running time:      101 mins.


All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre)