Mr. Almovodar's marvelous film announces simply that, in today's mad world, the kindness of strangers-civility-is life's essential element.

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


All About My Mother is rich with the eccentricities of the mind and culture of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). The filmmaker known as "the poet of Madrid" has set his new film in Barcelona. In a culture laced with machismo, he has made a movie that celebrates the spirit of women as they go about the business of making life work. Macho men are of no interest to Mr. Almovodar. They would have no place in this tenderhearted film.

"It's a movie about my mother-letting her explain things," Mr. Almodovar observes. The women in this movie are dealing with the kind of pain "that almost goes through them." They deal with it by settling into a state of grace that often centers on the kindness of strangers. They move through a bewildering and hostile world with the deeply intuitive certainty that the only path to survival is personal kindness.

Manuela (Cecilia Roth), an emergency room nurse, and her son, Esteban (Eloy Azarin), celebrate the boy's 17th birthday by attending a performance of "A Streetcar Named Desire." After the performance Manuela sees Esteban killed by a car as he races to get an autograph from famed actress Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes).

The emergency room nurse must decide whether to give her son's heart to save another; she must find his father, who has become a drag queen named Lola. Distraught but strong, Manuela sets out to bring the news to Lola in Barcelona. As she searches, the circle of women and would-be women grows in a tender portrait of off-center life without a touch of the self-conscious or the tawdry. The colorful melodrama -called by the New York Film Festival "a screwball valentine to all women and to all men who want to be women"-is peppered with people intent on navigating life with decency. We meet a pregnant nun, a famous stage actress, and a transsexual performer-all determined to live their lives with authenticity. The film is brimming with salutes to Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Bette Davis, who, like Pedro Almodovar's women, knew no boundaries between life and theater.

In his own closing credit, the director writes, "To Bette Davis, Gena Rowlands, Romy Schneider, to all actresses who've played actresses, to all women who act, to men who act and become women, to all the people who want to be mothers, to my mother." If all the world is Almodovar's stage, his actresses perform full-time, propelled by irony, humor, and kindness through the tragedies life plants in their paths. This film is the director's warm-hearted tribute to women who have learned that all of life is performance.

When Blanche DuBois said, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," we always knew the words were spoken by a madwoman. Mr. Almovodar's marvelous film announces simply that, in today's mad world, the kindness of strangers-civility-is life's essential element.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio :
Rating : R
Running time : 1h40m


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