All About My Mother

(Todo Sobre Mi Madre)


All About My Mother is Pedro Almodovar's ode to women everywhere. He dedicates the movie to his mother, all mothers, and women everywhere. This is somewhat odd, considering that party animal Almodovar is one of Spain's more audacious directors, giving us such memorable films as Live Flesh and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! A known party animal, Almodovar cleverly constructs a very emotional story within the confines of the baser elements of the Barcelona's street life. All About My Mother is full of strong women characters played by great Spanish actresses (most of them unknown to American audiences), and references to other works with strong women characters like A Streetcar Named Desire and All About Eve.

Manuela (Cecilia Roth) is the central character in the movie. She lives in Madrid with her beloved son Esteban (Eloy Azorin). For his birthday, she takes him to a production of Streetcar. The play holds special meaning for her; she played the role of Stella when she was younger. The play moves both of them, and Esteban wants the autograph of Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes) after the show. He also wants Manuela to tell him the story about his father, an unknown figure in his life. Rojo enters a taxi before Esteban can reach her, so he chases after the taxi, only to be hit by a car and killed. She takes a cathartic journey back to Barcelona, where she left Esteban's father long ago. For her son, Manuela sets out to find his father.

In Barcelona, she meets Agrado (Antonia San Juan), a transsexual hooker, who was also a part of her past life. They both knew Esteban's father. Agrado introduces her to Sister Rosa (Penelope Cruz, Twice Upon a Yesterday, All The Pretty Horses), who wants to help Manuela get a job. Ironically, Rosa, who is pregnant, turns to Rosa for help through the pregnancy; she does not want to tell her parents about the baby. The production of A Streetcar Named Desire arrives in town, and Manuela gets a job as Rojo's personal assistant.

Take away the hookers, transsexuals, and drugs, and what's left is a touching story about the lives of women. All About My Mother is light years ahead of the many wannabe 'chick flicks' that open every once in a while here. Although on screen for only a short time, Esteban's presence resonates through the entire movie. Roth's grief as Manuela is very believable. Roth, Paredes, Cruz, and all of the other actresses give phenomenal performances in roles that celebrate women for who they are. Their roles do not pander to their characters, instead, they are strong and independent. These actresses are wildly popular and well regarded in Europe, and this is a great chance for American audiences to see them in action, together no less. Almodovar effortlessly mixes poignancy and humor together, growing as a director. It is definitely worth the effort to find and watch All About My Mother.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated R for sexuality including strong sexual dialogue, language, and some drug content.

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