Film Reviews: Parallel Mothers | Flag Day | Amulet | Sing 2

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Parallel mothers

Parallel Mothers (15) ****

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Pedro Almodóvar likes stories of lives that intersect in strange ways and his new film, Parallel mothers, is one of his most intriguing to date. It stars frequent muse Penélope Cruz as Janis, a 40-year-old photographer who befriends 17-year-old Ana (Milena Smit) when the two give birth within hours of each other at the same hospital. . Both are single mothers and both vow to stay in touch, even if the demands of early parenthood initially don’t leave much room for a budding friendship.

Janis, for example, must juggle her career while raising a baby girl and dealing with the suspicions of the baby’s father that he is not her real father. And Ana is struggling to cope now that her own divorced mother has decided to pursue her acting career instead of helping her raise her baby girl. As always, Almodovar revels in the melodrama domesticity can conjure up and when these two women finally reconnect months later, tragedy and deception unite them – which is about all that can be revealed without spoiling. the many twists and turns of the story as it takes a darker turn. to explore how the ghosts of the past must be confronted in order to create a viable future.

This is a common theme in Almodóvar, but here he extends it to an examination of Spain’s past by placing the film in the context of a campaign to excavate a mass grave outside the village of Janis’ childhood dating back to the Spanish Civil War. At the start of the film, we learn that Janis’ grandfather was among the victims buried there and it is this connection that transforms her life: the future father of her child is a forensic archaeologist whom she was hired to photograph; when she asks for his help, they quickly fall in love with each other, though the resulting pregnancy ends their budding relationship when he refuses to leave his cancer-stricken wife (again, the melodrama ).

Sean Penn and Dylan Penn in Flag Day PIC: Vertigo Releasing

But Almodóvar’s great skill lies in his ability to weave such a heavy historical story into such a gripping, soap opera-like tale of two women who find each other – something brilliantly aided by Cruz and Smit, whose shared ability to responding to the changing dynamics of their characters’ relationship generates a lot of tension as their secrets are gradually unraveled.

flag day, Sean Penn’s latest film, sees the actor-turned-filmmaker helm alongside his real-life daughter Dylan Penn in a film that bills itself as a crime thriller but soon turns out to be a family drama about a young girl’s complex relationship. woman with her crook father. While there are nuances of Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon in the story and casting, the film itself is based on the memoir of American journalist Jennifer Vogel, whose father (played by Penn) was a forger. notorious who died while being pursued by the FBI in a high-speed chase – a dramatic disappearance that Penn uses to end the film.

However, Flag Day primarily focuses on the impact of his narcissistic need for approval on Jennifer, who had adored him as a hero from a young age, but struggled to reconcile her childhood love for him with her take on him. growing awareness of his delusional self-esteem. As an adult Jennifer, Dylan Penn handles dramatic fireworks well, standing tall against his father, whose ability to deepen the very Willy Loman-esque self-pity that underlies his character’s pathetic efforts to justify his crime is the strongest of the film. element. Whatever thrill this family casting stunt gives Flag Day, however, that’s not enough to mask the hackneyed way the story unfolds at times, or the awe-inspiring way Penn uses elliptical editing, camera work Terrence Malick-style and ornate voiceover to make it sound deeper than it actually is.

The last 10 minutes of Romola Garai’s first film, Amulet, offer such an entertaining twist on demonic horror cinema that it’s somewhat of a shame that the previous hour and a half was so boring. Blending horror shots with Instagram-ready visuals and a vague #MeToo-themed story involving a refugee fleeing his past in an unnamed war zone (he’s played by God’s Own Country’s Alex Secareanu), the film n It’s not so slow-burning horror like sadly executed horror, with sometimes remarkably composed individual scenes that don’t generate much atmosphere or tension.

Amulet

The occasional presence of Imelda Staunton as a nun isn’t quite what she seems to inject into the film with the same campy menace happily embraced in the finale, but for the most part it’s just another movie of fearless genre jumping on the “high horror” bandwagon.

Despite Bono’s casting as the voice of a reclusive rock star lion, an animated jukebox musical Sing 2 is a slightly more bearable children’s film than its anemic predecessor. Returning director Garth Jennings opts for a “let’s put on another show” type plot by giving the film’s rejected cast of anthropomorphic talent (led by Matthew McConaughey’s koala impresario Buster Moon) a chance to make their mark. evidence on a larger stage. Inevitably, this results in intense U2 vocals involving the aforementioned Bono-voiced lion, but Jennings also throws in a few bits of left-field music – Prince, Mercury Rev, Billie Eilish – and poppy animation and rhythm. frantic get things done. . Scarlett Johansson and Reese Witherspoon are part of the voice cast.

Parallel Mothers, Amulet and Sing 2 hit theaters January 28; Flag Day is available in selected versions and digitally from January 28.

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