Manuela is a nurse, would-be actress and single mother, living in Madrid with her son, Esteban. For his 17th birthday Manuela takes him to see A Streetcar Named Desire. The play is special for them both: for Esteban because it stars the great actress Huma Rojo, whom he admires; to Manuela because she once played in it herself, opposite the man who was to become Esteban’s father. The evening ends in tragedy: Esteban is killed, and Manuela sets off to Barcelona to find his father.
She finds he’s much changed, to say the least. Her quest brings her into a circle of whores, lesbians, transsexuals and a pregnant, HIV-positive nun whose lives are intricately entwined with each other and with her own history. In many ways these are typical Almodóvar characters and this a typical Almodóvar film, with its use of bright, primary colours, its unsentimental attitude to the byways of sex, and its references to other films; principally All About Eve, but also his own earlier work. But if you’re not that keen on Almodóvar and not everyone is – you may well like this. He’s taken the bold step of using a spectrum of queer culture to explore the role of motherhood, and his familiar outrageousness is tempered with a new maturity and generosity that enables him to present what could be camp caricatures as real people with real emotions. We’re encouraged to like them, forgive their failings and betrayals, applaud their better instincts and sympathise with their griefs.
Almodóvar is already celebrated as a director of actors, and his mainly female cast serve him well. The film is imaginative and brilliantly crafted; the storytelling complex but not confusing; locations well-chosen and well- photographed, the music and design effective and not as obtrusive as in some of his earlier work. The film won Almodóvar the Best Director prize at Cannes, and some felt it should have won the Palme D’Or. Critics are beginning to use the words great and masterpiece, and while they mostly agree that All About My Mother isn’t a masterpiece, there’s a feeling that Almodóvar’s work is heading that way.
Manuela: Cecilia Roth
Huma Rojo: Marisa Paredes
La Agrado: Antonia San Juan
Sister Rosa: Penelope Cruz
Lola: Toni Cantó
Niña: Candela Peña
Director and Screenplay: Pedro Almodóvar
Producer: Augustin Almodóvar
Photography: Affonso Beato
Music: Alberto Iglesias
Art Director: Anton Gomez
“Wonderful. All about humanity, love & reconciliation amongst real ugliness & hate. Brilliant musical background. A ‘people’ film”
“Absorbing but why was it such a strange colour”
“(I) loved the use of colour & fantasy but otherwise not sensational”
“The beginning was gripping….”
“Basically a soap opera”
“Repulsive subject matter sensitively handled”
“Very well done but still twaddle!”
“Too much red, too much soap – TOO MUCH !! Lola quite unbelievable at any level”
“(Perhaps this) should have been called `When Did You Last See The Father?’ “