Antonio Banderas is fantastic in this self-reflective and semi-autobiographical story from director Pedro Almodovar.
The hair gives it away. In "Pain & Glory," director Pedro Almodovar ("Talk To Her, " Volver"), tells a quiet, contemplative story about an aging film director with wacky hair. Just Google "Pedro Almodovar" and you'll immediately see the physical resemblance to Salvador Mallo, the character portrayed by Antonio Banderas in the film.
Mallo's greatest work seems to be far behind him, and a number of debilitating ailments have left him in constant pain...mostly physical but emotionally as well. Almodovar uses a device where we get to look back at Mallo's childhood and his relationship with his hard-working mother (Penelope Cruz), and his emerging sexuality. When one of Mallo's films is honored by a local cinema, his past catches up to him and unlocks some deep feelings that just might act as the remedy for all of his deep wounds.
Not quite working on the same level as last year's "Roma" (Alfonso Cuaron's critical darling that feels of the same vein as "Pain & Glory"), Almodovar's newest film tends to go off on too many tangents...it's a bit too unfocused to be entirely effective. But mixed into the haze of Mallo's glory years, there are some exquisite and genuine moments, subtly showcased by Antonio Banderas, giving his best performance in years, and perhaps of his career.
There's a very clever and emotionally powerful twist that is revealed late in the film, but the journey there is a bit meandering. Still, "Pain & Glory" is worth the watch...it's a great director looking inward, matched with an actor giving it all he's got and going to places we never knew he was capable of.
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes.
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Penélope Cruz, Leonardo Sbaraglia.
Written and Directed by Pedro Almodovar ("Julieta," "Volver," "Talk to Her," "All About My Mother," "Matador.")
"Pain & Glory" is in limited-release on Friday, October 25th, 2019.
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