A scene from 'All About My Mother'
Courtesy Photo
***1/2 stars 101 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, December 22, 1999 (SF)
Written & directed by Pedro Almodovar

Starring Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Candela Pena, Antonia San Juan, Penelope Cruz, Toni Canto, Eloy Azorin & Rosa Maria Sarda

This movie received an honorable mention in the Best of 1999 list.


Even when Almodovar's films are deep explorations of character, as "Mother" is, they're always wildly colorful and cinematic, so the more theatrical the viewing experience the better. Still, regardless of format, this picture is a prize rental.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 7/11/2000

Penelope Cruz:
"Open Your Eyes" (1999)
"Twice Upon A Yesterday" (1999)

Brassy director's most mature, intuitive work yet is a funny, sad tale of perseverance after tragedy

By Rob Blackwelder

Once you get past the fact that this movie takes place in a very Pedro Almodovar world where soccer moms, flamboyant unemployed transvestites, aging stage divas and pregnant nuns all hang around together -- and even date each other -- "All About My Mother" emerges as the brassy Spanish director's most mature and intuitive work yet.

The story of the soccer mom's devastation and perseverance after seeing her 17-year-old son killed in a traffic accident, the film follows the distraught Manuela (Cecilia Roth) from Barcelona to Madrid in a therapeutic search for the boy's father -- now a transvestite -- who never knew he had a child.

In one of Almodovar's delicious twists of irony, as the movie begins Manuela is an organ transplant nurse, who is soon faced with the difficult decision to allow her son's body to be used for spare parts.

Unable to face her job again, she sets off on her quest, along the way seeking distractions from her pain by becoming the personal assistant to the stage diva (Marisa Paredes), practically adopting the pregnant -- and HIV-positive -- nun (Penelope Cruz), and catching up with a long-lost friend of the father, another surgically enhanced cross-dresser named Agrado (Antonia San Juan), who has hit on hard times and is prostituting her way from day to day.

As with all Almodovar movies, "All About My Mother" is as colorful (both literally and metaphorically) and whimsical as it is melancholy and vicarious. But compared his delightful pure comedies ("Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown") and so-so sexual melodramedies ("Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!") this film has a new level of emotional depth.

The writer-director continues to demonstrate a remarkable understanding of the female psyche and, as always, casts sublime actresses that lend his characters even more authenticity. Especially veritable is Roth, a beautiful woman that absolutely looks her age (about 40) but hasn't lost any youthful luster. She carries the film, playing Manuela's shattered motherhood with cogent, captivating sympathy.

While I was watching "All About My Mother," it seemed to be merely a good movie, blessed by strong performances and Almodovar's delectable quirkiness and bold photography. But as the credits rolled on the screen, I rolled the picture around in my head and started to warm to it even more. By the time I'd left the theater, I was in love and wanted to see it again.

I don't think I can explain how or why that happened, but it was a wonderful sensation.


powered by FreeFind
SPLICEDwire home
Online Film Critics Society
All Rights Reserved
Return to top
Current Reviews
SPLICEDwire Home