All About My Mother (1999)

“Well, as I was saying, it costs a lot to be authentic, ma’am. And one can’t be stingy with these things because you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being.”

‘All About My Mother’, directed by Pedro Almodóvar in 1999, is a melodrama set in Madrid and Barcelona. The central character, Manuela played by Cecilia Roth, loses her teenage son in a car accident and travels into her past to find her ex-lover, a transvestite called Lola. In Barcelona she encounters, and cares for, a variety of women including a transgender prostitute, a nun who turns out to be carrying Lola’s child, and an actress with a heroin addicted partner. The film is bright, colourful and kinetic with scene compositions similar to Fellini, but with a steely heart. The characters are all in some way living in crisis and in tension with one another. Almodóvar, like Fassbinder, is a director who loves women, and like Fassbinder takes a modern and flexible approach to relationships and gender. This fluidity is an integral part of Almodóvar’s movie, but is never really at the core of the drama. His characters are just as they are. Highlights include the beautiful way Almodóvar films his story, the rich, at times seedy, interiors. Also the allusions to 1950s American movies heightens the melodramatic, soap-opera like feeling of the film, a superficial quality that is deftly underpinned by the complex and deep emotional relationships between the characters.

Would I recommend it? Yes – maybe in a double-bill with a Fassbinder movie I haven’t seen, or with another Almodóvar movie I’m yet to watch.

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