on March 15, 2004
Probably my favourite film of all time!
Almodovar does it every time without fail.
He creates stories using characters that would be unsympathetically portrayed by other directors, yet he creates empathy within you even for the most screwed up them.
In this story, dealing with the love a mother has for her son, and her tragic loss when he dies, you meet prostitutes, transsexuals, transvestites and nuns with HIV!
Sounds ridiculous, but the director is a genius.
It's worth noting that this film won an Oscar for Best International Movie.
A truly moving, emotional, funny and thought provoking story, with colourful characters and told with genuine warmth.
I defy anyone not to be moved...
on July 14, 2004
The death by accident of a mother's much loved son compels her to go to Barcelona and inform the father, who doesn't even know of the boy's existence. Finding the father is not so easy and by going to Barcelona, the mother digs back into a world she had left behind in order to bring up her son. It is a sordid but colourful world with transvestite prostitutes, junkies, an AIDs riddled nun, divas, and the usual associates of one's past. Remember that this is Almodovar, not Ivory-Merchant. However, these people are not displayed as freaks, but portrayed sympathetically. Almodovar celebrates their lives. He does not pass judgement.
Like other Almodovar films, the complex story line shows the strains that pull apart and bring together relationships. The emotional lives of the characters are laid bare. While there may be melodrama, there is a strict avoidance of sentimentality. The acting is wonderful, especially Cecilia Roth, who for some reason reminds me of the British actress, Hannah Gordon.
My only criticism is the use of coincidence. This is also a feature of other Almodovar's films; but here he stretches it a bit far. For instance, first the Cecilia Roth character steps in to take the part of an actress in a professional stage play, to great acclaim, and then when she leaves it, her transvestite friend, who as far as I know has never acted in his life, effortlessly takes over. This is a small criticism. "All About My Mother" is a splendid film by a great film maker. Without being a dreary feminist polemic, it is a celebration of women in all their roles: as mothers, as lovers, as carers; and to those who want to be women. Warmly recommended.
on March 15, 2004
The title character here --- the man behind the "my" in "All About My Mother" -- actually dies in the beginning of the film, on his 18th birthday, right after he asks his single mother to finally tell him about his father. She never has, and he dies without the knowledge.
Greatly aggrieved, she decides to fulfill his wish post-humously. She takes the train from Madrid to Barcelona -- from where she ran away when pregnant and had never returned. It turns out that she used to appear in a theater group's rendition of "A Streetcar Named Desire". She finds the theater that features the same play (in fact, she and her son had seen the same traveling theater group in Madrid the night he died.) She takes a job there and makes friends with the two lesbian stars of the play. She also reconnects with her friends from her past life, althogh not all --- Lola is conspicuously missing, and everyone wonders where she is.
Catch Penelope Cruz well-cast in a spectacularly understated role as Sister Rosa, a pregnant nun. She is excellent!
on March 7, 2004
You must be Spanish today to be able to produce such a film entirely dedicated to the concept of the « son ». The real son who was born, raised and educated by his mother, because of the total absence of the father, because the father is not « presentable » to the son, because teh father is a semi-transexual transvestite, what's more addicted to heroin and infested with AIDS. The film becomes poignant, a lot more than sentimental, compassionate, pathetic or any thing else of the kind, when one mother who has just lost her teenage son from this father meets with a nun who is carrying the not yet born son of this very same father. It could become bleak since the new mother is HIV positive, or even densely black since she dies during delivery, and yet it remains luminous when the father discovers the truth about his first son and then discovers his second son, a few weeks before he, this father, dies. This luminosity is multiplied because an actress who is performing Blanche in « A Streetcar Named Desire », brings into the film all the dense meaning conveyed by this situation and the author of the play. Never the film becomes critical. Never the film hides or distanciates the situation and the professions of some of these newly born « women ». Never the film becomes gross or sickening. It is a master piece on a fundamental and essential problem in our societies, a problem that concerns millions and millions of people, men, women and children alike : gender identity and AIDS. To hide it would be a crime.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
on March 3, 2004
Watching ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER is a strange journey; just when you think it went off on a tangent, it pulls the viewer back in with authentic and convincing emotional portrayals of grief and loss, which ultimately results in a satisfying film. Spanish films, and in particular Pedro Almodovar films, are well crafted and worth searching out in the video store, and ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER doesn't disappoint. This film follows the story of Manuela who loses her beloved son Estaban in a car accident. After his death she realizes that his biggest wish is to know who his father is. Traveling from Madrid to Barcelona Manuela engages on a trip that is both geographical and emotional. She eventually comes to terms with her ex-husband Lola, who is a cross-dresser and drug addict. The story of Lola is deeply sad and unsettling. Equally thought provoking is Penelope Cruz's performance as a nun whose life is turned upside down after being intimate with Lola. There are no quintessential Hollywood happy endings in this film, rather just honest and realistic partings of the characters. Recommended.
on December 16, 2003
Manuela has just lost her son in a traffic accident and travels to Barcelone to look up old friends, including the transvestite who abandoned her 18 years ago never knowing she was pregnant. She reestablishes old friendships and makes new acquaintances as she looks for the father, and finds him at the end of the film.
One interesting thing about this film is the concept of gender. Almodovar is a director who typically works with strong actresses and writes well for women, and this film, dedicated to actresses and mothers, is particularly interesting as an exploration of female relationships. In "An Intimate Conversation with Pedro Almodovar", a 24-minute dvd feature, he states that one of the ideas he wants to examine is the "natural solidarity of women" -- not your typical take on female relations, at least in the US. These are women who are lost or experiencing loss, and they bring strength to each other and build friendships even in their grief. There are few men in the film, and though they are pivotal to the action they are only tangentially present -- one dies, two are transvestites and one has advanced Alzheimer's.
Another thread that runs through the film is the play A Streetcar Named Desire. Manuela met her husband while playing Stella to his Kowalski; later her son is killed after they see this play together, and she eventually befriends the actress who plays Blanche.
There are few dvd extras but they will add to your enjoyment of the film. In additon to the conversation with Almodovar, in which he explains themes of the film as well as the process of writing and directing, there is a 3-minute making-of featurette and talent files for several of the actors and the director. The film can be heard in Spanish with English or French subtitles, or you can watch the film with only the soundtrack playing. The music is very nice.
As usual with Almodovar films, this one is emotionally riveting and thought-provoking -- a great film to see with friends or on your own. Another success for this intelligent and provocative director-writer.
on August 9, 2003
I bought this dvd recently at a discount as a previously viewed item. I've always enjoyed Pedro Almodovar's work, especially my favorite, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown". I had read and heard lots of good things about "All About My Mother" and after watching it, I wasn't let down. Cecilia Roth is excellent as Manela, a mother her loses her only son, Esteban, to a car accident before her very eyes. Grief stricken she decides to run away from Madrid where she lived and return to Barcelona, the city that she left years ago as a young pregnant woman. Once in Barcelona she meets an old friend called La Agrado, a transsexual prostitute, who in turn introduces her to Rosa, a nun, who becomes a new friend. She also finds work with Huma Rojo (played wonderfully by Marisa Paredes) an actress who is touring the country playing Blanche DuBois in Tennessee William's great work, "A Street Car Named Desire". It was this play that she saw with her son the night he was killed, as he was trying to meet Huma Rojo. The story has lots of twists and is always interesting, as you would expect from Almodovar. But it is the relationships between these women that is the real star of this movie. Almodovar explores the depth of friendship and sisterhood between these women but never turns it into a Lifetime Movie. And due must be given to the actresses, in paticular Cecelia Roth, Marisa Paredes and Antonio San Juan. This movie is a great find and I recommend it to all.
on April 19, 2003
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER is a great film. Though it requires its American audience to read subtitles it is still a truly engrossing and wonderful film. The storyline is unique, making the film very watchable. The acting is superb from the likes of Cecilia Roth and Penelope Cruz. If you enjoy foreign films, interesting plots and characters, or films that keep you hooked from beginning to end ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER is a must-see. I recommend you buy or rent this film today.
Director Pedro Almodovar takes his viewers on a journey through the life of a troubled woman. This woman has an important job, a handsome and loving son, and a comfortable life. In a split second, it all comes to a halt. Her beloved son Esteban is killed. After a period of grief, she goes in search of a new life. She finds a new life full of nuns, transvestites, and traces of the great writer Esteban would have been. Almodovar does a splendid job telling the story and makes the film one few will forget.
I think the thing about this film is its honesty and reality. The film is so true to life and shows the faults of humans. The actors all bring a gritty reality to the picture. The film won Best Foreign Language film in 1999. It was well-deserved on the part of all involved. Pedro Almodovar wove a story that many people will enjoy.
If you don't enjoy foreign films, films dealing with transvestites, or if you are looking to escape from life by watching the movie, ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER is not for you. If you enjoy innovative films with great actors, unique plots, and Academy-Award winning films, this a picture you should see. However, my suggestion would be to rent the film first to see if you like it. If you do, buy it from Amazon.com. Either way, you're in for a treat.
on April 3, 2003
I do not like this director. I saw two of Almodóvar's previous films and they left me stone cold. But this film is quite different and much it leaves the viewer well satisfied. Celia Roth plays Manuela who lives with her seventeen year old son. After he is killed in an car accident, Manuela leaves Madrid for her home town Barcelona for unfinished business with the boy's father.
She meets her old friend, a transsexual prostitute Agrado. Through Agrado she connects Rosa, a caring nun who is both pregnant and sick. In time, she becomes this nun's surrogate mother as she faces her dreadful fate.
In a plot similar to All about Eve, Manuela becomes a personal assistant for Huma, an actress currently playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire - a play that Manuela was in when she was younger and then gets a part in the play.
There are impossible coinicidences throughout the film, but it all works somehow and it is even vaguely believable. The plot is actually secondary to emotional depths of this film. It is about grief, healing, motherhood, friendships and fatherhood. It looks at transexuals and the bonds between some very different women.
Roth is superb in the lead role - both vunerable but strong. The scene with all the main women characters drinking and talking is brilliantly put together. The whole film has a superb pace and the direction if excellent.
I would not say he has entirely softened, but Almodóvar's shows some merciful restraint and it works far better than his previous films.
on January 18, 2003
Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother contains more pure emotion than anything Hollywood puts out these days. The film follows the turbulent life of Manuela (Cecilia Roth) who tragically loses her teenage son Esteban (Eloy Azorin) after they both attend a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. Esteban is killed when he is hit by a car while chasing after actress Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes) in the hope of getting her autograph. The loss devestates Manuela. When she recovers from her grief, she sets out to Barcelona to find Esteban's father to tell him of his son's death. Along the way, Manuela comes across old and new friends who help her heal further while also causing her more grief. Almodovar expertly balances the heartbreak and the humor to such a degree that the viewer is never sure whether a tear or a laugh is around the corner. And while the characters in the film are unconventional - transvestite hookers, a pregnant nun, lesbians - the irony is their interactions say as much about family values as any conventional family film out there. All the performances from Roth's grieving mother to Penelope Cruz's ill-fated nun are honest and true. This film is a roller-coaster ride of emotion but in the end you'll be glad that you took the ride.