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José gives Mike a history lesson on the Spanish Civil War, the scars it left on Spanish culture and society, and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s own relationship to it and the dictatorship to which it led, under which he grew up and which fell in the few years prior to his ascent to prominence. His new film, Parallel Mothers, inspires this review of the past, embroiled as it is in confronting Spain’s modern history and, José argues, adapting elements of it to the melodrama of motherhood that forms its primary plot – a plot which is used to explore questions of lies, psychic violence, and instrumentality that are part of the film’s critique of Spain’s Pact of Forgetting, its political and cultural agreement to avoid confronting the legacy of the Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, which the itch to scratch historical memory is seen to disturb.
It’s a film with serious flaws, and a disappointment given Almodóvar’s estimable body of work, especially the masterpiece that was his most recent film, Pain and Glory, but a film that creates this kind of discourse is to be valued. It’s pat, one-dimensional, and with a leadenness of tone that isn’t typical of Almodóvar, whose sense of humour is usually so reliable – but still worth seeing.
With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.