In Parallel Mothers (Madres paralelas) director Pedro Almodóvar and star Penélope Cruz team up one more time to create another fascinating story. Two parallel stories, actually. One is about facing the truth as a modern mother, and one is about uncovering the truth about Spain’s violent past.
Parallel Mothers (Madres paralelas) begins with Janis (Penélope Cruz), a photographer, shooting photos of a forensic anthropologist named Arturo (Israel Elejalde). After the session is over, she asks him to help her with excavating a mass grave in her hometown. It’s been there since Franco’s days and contains her great grandfather. Her great grandmother, her grandmother, and her mother all know exactly where it is, as do many other women in the town. They all want their family members brought up to be buried properly.
Arturo explains what will have to happen before the mass grave can be excavated. By this time in the evening, the two of them begin an affair. Janis becomes pregnant. Like other strong and single women in her family, she plans to have the child alone because Arturo is married.
Fast forward to the delivery of the baby. Janis shares a hospital room with the young mom-to-be, Ana (Milena Smit). They have their daughters on the same day and become entangled in both predictable and surprising ways for the remainder of the story.
I don’t want to tell you too much about Ana and Janis, because the twists and surprises in their story form the majority of the film. The two actors are both excellent. The younger Milena Smit matches the more accomplished Penélope Cruz scene for scene. Their emotions and dilemmas are the core of the film.
The two of them are flanked by Ana’s mostly absent mother, Teresa (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón) and Janis’ friend and agent Elena (Rossy de Palma).
Eventually, the excavation begins. When the skeletons are identified and revealed to the townspeople, a quote from Eduardo Galeano appears. “No history is mute. No matter how hard you try to silence it, human history refuses to shut up.” The quote sums up both the legacy of Franco’s Fascism and the intricacies of Janis and Ana’s relationship with each other and their children.
The film is available for a rental fee on places like Prime Video and YouTube. I assume it will eventually be available on a streamer as part of the subscription price, but I didn’t mind paying a bit to see this outstanding film.