• Golden Globe Awards

Parallel Mothers (Spain)

Director-writer Pedro Almodóvar tackles the nightmare of every mother – to have their newborn babies switched at the maternity ward in his latest Spanish drama.
Parallel Mothers (Madres Paralelas) deals with the trauma and complications when the switch happens not only with the women involved but also with the people close to them.
Penélope Cruz portrays Janis, a 40-year-old photographer who is determined to raise her daughter as a single mom, just as her mother and grandmother did before her.
In another layer to Almodóvar’s script, Janis’ roots lead her to undertake a search for the grave of her great-grandfather who was shot and hastily buried along with others in unmarked graves during the Spanish Civil War. This story element allows the maestro filmmaker to show dictator Francisco Franco’s nightmarish legacy of unmarked graves that still affect the surviving families to this day.
Cruz won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 78th Venice Film Festival for this performance.
In the maternity ward, she meets a teenager, Ana (played by Milena Smit), who is planning to cut off her relations with her parents, run away from home, take over her life and also raise her daughter all by herself.
The new mothers become close friends since both are in the same boat. But a biological test establishes the switch and the lives of these two women are turned upside down.
This film delves deeply into the emotional and mental rollercoaster ride that a new mother goes through when that accidental switch happens, driving both women into life-changing decisions that also affect the people surrounding them.
Cruz, 47, who is a mother of two herself – Luna and Leo – described the experience of doing the movie in a press conference at the Venice Film Festival: “It has been a very intense trip, but very nice. It has been a gift. I perfectly remember the day I read it. One night, I said, ‘Well, this man (Almodóvar) has written other wonders. It is an honor to be part of something so special and so important. I was aware that I was facing a difficult character, perhaps the most difficult so far.”
In the Venice press conference, the 72-year-old Spanish auteur, Almodóvar, explained more about his female characters in the movie.
He said, “Now, I am more interested in imperfect and questionable mothers or at least, those who go through periods that are very difficult to solve, simply because the previous mothers were the opposite. They were more inspired by my own mother, by the female figures who educated me as a child.”
“I was a child surrounded by women who were my mother and the neighbors. All the omnipotent mothers that I put in my films came from that early education. But the more complex the character of Penelope was, the more I was interested as a director because it also meant something new to me. It is true that it made it more difficult.”
“In my experience with the real mothers in my life, I have found some, for example, who did not have maternal instincts. I have found many types. In this case, for novelty, I was more interested in this type of imperfect mothers.”
Almodóvar admitted that it is the most complex role he has written for Cruz on their eighth collaboration which also stars Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Rossy de Palma, Daniela Santiago and Israel Elejalde.
Aside from the relationship of the two mothers whose babies were switched at birth, Parallel Mothers also tackles historical memory. Almodóvar explained, “It is a pending issue in Spanish society. Spanish society has a huge moral debt to the families of the missing people, to those people who are buried in graves, gutters, unworthy places.”
He referred to the historical memory law in 2007 with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. “It was very incomplete. It did not have an economic endowment. The few exhumations that were made were always by private initiatives. So, I wanted to give visibility to this issue.”
He added, “Now it is the generation of the grandchildren and the great grandchildren who are asking for the exhumation.”