Pain and Glory

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A film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.

Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film (his 21st) is a drama about a film director in his later years, looking back on his life and contemplating the choices that led him to where he is today. He is older, in the middle of a creative crisis, and the 30th anniversary of his best known film stirs up old memories that come to the forefront of the narrative. It’s a self reflective piece of work from Almodóvar, and as his surrogate and lead, Antonio Banderas is as good as he’s been in years as the vulnerable director Salvador Mallo. No one does melodrama better than Almodóvar and I was swept along by this well crafted and rewarding film.

The entry point for the audience to Salvador Mallo’s life is on the 30th anniversary of Sabor, a successful film of his that is being remastered and re-released to mark the anniversary. This brings Mallo back into contact with the film’s lead (Asier Etxeandia), who he had a tempestuous relationship with, and the memories of working on that film only serve to heighten his anxiety about his career and his future. Through flashbacks we learn about his difficult upbringing in the small village of Paterna, his relationship with his mother (Penelope Cruz in flashbacks) and his first, painful love and breakup that clearly still lives with him to this day. Banderas is perfect in the role, and as an actor who has worked with Almodóvar on numerous occasions, he really gets what is required for this performance.

I thought it was a really enjoyable film, rich and rewarding and beautifully put together by the filmmakers. It plays on those feelings that come to the fore when we reflect on our past, on key events that shape us and on what might have happened if things had taken a different turn. This is never more apparent than in an encounter with an old flame (Leonardo Sbaraglia), which bristles with chemistry and unfulfilled desires between Banderas and Sbaraglia. ‘Pain and Glory’ is another superb film from the Spanish master Pedro Almodóvar, and I was really taken by it.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Pedro Almodóvar

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Raul Arevalo, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Asier Etxeandia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, Cesar Vicente and Asier Flores

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt8291806/

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