Movie reviews: Director Pedro Almodovar unravels the perils of parenthood with his muse Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers

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Spanish writer-director Pedro Almodovar reunites with two of his luminous muses, Penelope Cruz and Rossy de Palma, for a slow, melodramatic portrait of parenthood.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker repeatedly explored the tangled relationship between matriarchs and children in his elegant and sensual work, most gloriously in his 1999 comedy-drama All About My Mother, who navigated life after an untimely death through the gift of organs.

In the aptly titled Parallel Mothers, Almodovar revisits some of his favorite themes with characteristic flourishes but he also skims through one of the dark chapters in his country’s history during the Spanish Civil War.

Politics and personal trauma are slowly unearthed from the layers of Almodovar’s simple but effective script, providing Cruz with another complex and emotionally demanding role that veers into surprisingly unnerving territory as the telenovela plot mechanics fall into place. with a palpable erotic charge.

Men are largely absent, some out of cruel circumstance rather than choice, but not all women are model sitters.

A wandering mum’s daughter, a glamorous actress who prioritized her career over domestic responsibilities, says the only lesson she learned from her mother was to ‘live my life and be free’ .

Almodovar’s heroines in Parallel Mothers follow this selfish creed, sometimes to their detriment, but when they stumble and fall, they dust themselves defiantly and don’t instinctively reach out to a man to help them up.

Photographer Janis Martinez (Cruz) meets charming forensic archaeologist Arturo (Israel Elejalde) while filming and she asks his advice on excavating a mass grave from the Spanish Civil War near his home village.

Arturo has a wife who is undergoing chemotherapy for her cancer but he is attracted to Janis and they sleep together.

Soon after, she becomes pregnant and chooses to raise the child alone without Arturo’s involvement.

Before Janis gives birth with the support of her editor-in-chief’s best friend Elena (de Palma), she befriends pregnant teenager Ana Manso (Milena Smit) and her mother Teresa (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon ) to the hospital.

Janis and Ana give birth to daughters the same night, Cecilia and Anita respectively, and agree to stay in touch as they embark on journeys as single mothers.

Months later, a tragedy unexpectedly brings the two women together, but Janis has an ulterior motive for wanting to hire Ana as an au pair for baby Cecilia, which will put their sisterly solidarity to the test.

Parallel Mothers relies on a classic soap opera ploy, but Almodovar extracts real tears and pain from the spinoff.

Cruz and Smit are well-matched as their characters’ relationship goes back and forth, acknowledging their beautiful imperfections in a world that holds caregivers to incredibly high standards.

Failures litter every parenting journey. Learning from them is key.

8/10

SING 2 (U)

Second albums can be notoriously tricky, but Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet’s energetic 2016 computer-animated musical sequel achieves the same feat as Queen, Nirvana, Adele, Madonna and Carole King in delivering a follow-up that surpasses its predecessor. .

In the case of Sing 2, the bar hasn’t been set at a disconcerting level.

The first film was a painfully predictable race to save a theater from closure by inviting anthropomorphic creatures large and small to compete in a singing contest.

Jennings and co-director Lourdelet have learned from some of their previous mistakes to deliver a simplistic yet narrative follow-up that pleases the crowd and preaches the same messages of unity and courage to a soundtrack by Prince, Shawn Mendes, Coldplay, The Struts and U2.

It’s an extremely sweet dish with sporadic laughs thanks to an aging iguana with an ill-fitting glass eye, which serves as the perfect paintball target in the sequel’s most snorting interlude.

Stage-stealing reptilian antics aside, Jennings’ screenplay makes obvious targets laugh softly and unabashedly rips the chord as it tackles grief at surface level.

Like the digitally rendered creatures on screen, Sing 2 overcomes its shortcomings and occasional awkwardness to encourage parents to tap their “toes” as children overdose on candy-colored visuals.

The enterprising koala Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) puts on sold-out shows at the New Moon Theater in Calatonia with his resident troupe of creatures: Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) and her dancing pig partner Gunter (Nick Kroll), the gorilla Johnny ( Taron Egerton) and the elephant Meena (Tori Kelly).

The bear impresario invites talent scout Suki (Chelsea Peretti) from Crystal Entertainment to evaluate his Alice in Wonderland revamp.

She comes out during the first half: “You’re not good enough. You would never make it into the big leagues.”

The koala is crestfallen until his mentor, retired sheep diva Nana Noodleman (Jennifer Saunders), inspires Buster to have “gut, stamina, faith” and crashes Crystal Entertainment auditions in Redstone City hosted by arctic wolf CEO Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale).

Porcupine punk rocker Ash (Scarlett Johansson) reunites with the gang for the tryout, but Crystal isn’t impressed until Gunter pitches the idea of ​​a sci-fi extravaganza that would bring the rock star back from the lion Clay Calloway (Bono) on stage after a 15 year break.

Crystal gives Buster three weeks to fulfill Gunter’s extravagant fantasy.

“Don’t do anything to make me look bad or I’ll throw you off the roof,” growls the wolf.

Sing 2 Dances to the same tune as the 2016 film, but with greater gusto and more polished animation over the elegantly choreographed song and dance numbers.

A subplot that “forces” shy teenager Meena to kiss a selfish older co-star during a love duet hits an uncomfortable note, but Jennings and Lourdelet navigate a minefield of their own making on the melody by Dionne Warwick.

For this we also say a small prayer.

6.5/10

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AMULET (15)

Bafta-nominated actress Romola Garai makes her debut as director and screenwriter of a horror thriller set in a run-down family home.

Former soldier Tomaz (Alec Secareanu) is haunted by memories of the conflict.

He lives in a squat in London and earns money as a bricklayer, racking up a meager income each night.

After being injured and hospitalized, Tomaz meets the kind nun Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton), who introduces him to Magda (Carla Juri).

She needs someone to renovate the dilapidated house she shares with her elderly, disabled mother in exchange for food and food.

Despite initial reluctance to move to a remote property without electricity, Tomaz accepts the deal and sets out to restore Magda’s property.

He quickly senses that something malicious is hiding inside the house.

FLAG DAY (15)

Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn directs two of his children, Dylan Penn and Hopper Jack Penn, in a drama based on the true story of journalist Jennifer Vogel and her forger father.

Adapted by Jez Butterworth and his brother John-Henry Butterworth from Vogel’s memoir, Flag Day explores the relationship between wandering hoodlum John Vogel (Sean Penn) and his loving children Jennifer (Addison Tymec) and Nick (Hopper Jack Penn). old man despite his many faults.

Their mother Patty (Katheryn Winnick) loves the bottle and Jennifer navigates a difficult upbringing to truly see John for the calculating, devious lucky guy that he is.

She escapes from the wreckage of her past and forges her own path as a journalist (now played by Dylan Penn).

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