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Looking Back… All About My Mother (1999)

“To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who ct and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother.”

This is Pedro Almodovar’s dedication at the beginning of All About My Mother (Todo Sobre Mi Madre.) And that sets the precedent for the glorious movie that is about women and for women.

All About My Mother tells the story of Manuela; a nurse who oversees organ donations. When her aspiring writer son Esteban is run over and killed whilst chasing favourite actress Huma Rojo, his heart is donated. Manuela follows her son’s heart, she decides to quit and travel to Barcelona where she once lived to find her sons father. Manuela meets up with old friends such as Agrado, a transvestite and starts to make a new life for herself. Along the way she makes new friends such as Rosa, a nun who is pregnant by a transvestite; the same one who is the father to Esteban. It is up to Manuela to tie up all loose ends in this very powerful drama.

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The great thing about All About My Mother is how simple and delicate it is. In most cases, presenting a melodrama such as All About My Mother with uncovered secrets and tense emotion would often descend into soap opera doom. Whereas other countries, not naming any names, would spill their tension into constant arguments, here the women are tender and loving; choosing the right path over their anger and frustration. Those held back feelings to keel over in a sad climatic scene but it is in keeping with the events that have transpired over the film. Manuela, played so wonderfully by Cecilia Roth, is a protagonist for women. She lives her world with understanding and honesty all the while grieving for her lost son and lost love with his father. There are no villains here, just genuine people making mistakes and accepting their consequences. This film has a real pulse throughout.

Almodovar also introduces us to an underworld of transvestites without issue. Sure, as with most “taboo” subjects those “out of the norm” are met with some conflict and curiosity. But for the most part, they are accepted and loved as equals which is a dream reality we should all aspire too. Agrado, played superbly by Antonia San Juan, is a highlight here. The witty wannabe actress is played as comic relief although her character is much more complex. She is the best friend with the cool advice and fun tales. Agrado opens the audience up to the normality that transsexuals and transvestites should be treated with. In fact, Agrado’s monologue is definitely a highlight within this movie.

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All About My Mother is shot with the same beauty as its actresses. The bright flashy colours steep us in the rich scenery of Barcelona. The grand architecture and beaming sunlight play apart to a truly outstanding movie.

Pedro Almodovar is a genius at directing this tight drama. He layers the stories subtly and guides us through a tale that would have fallen apart in the wrong hands. Here, emotion through whatever level is woven and entwined without ever spilling over into ridiculous conflict. It is at the very core a film about women in any shape and form. It is act of being a woman and not how people would like women to be. In one scene, with our four main women, they are talking through problems, consoling yet making each other laugh and smile. It is such a realistic scene that it could have been filmed about me and my friends. Almodovar has created a homage to the female gender playing them as strong yet fragile creatures. Here, women are not seeking approval by a man. Instead, these women of different backgrounds are being women.

Nothing more needed.


JULIETA IS OUT IN CINEMAS NOW! 

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