Pain And Glory

****

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Pain And Glory
"The tone is both bitter and sweet." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Just when you thought that Pedro Almodóvar’s films could not get any more up close and personal, along comes Pain And Glory, which deals with an ageing gay film-maker with a shock of grey hair who is facing depression, ill health, and a decline in his creative spark.

Stepping up to the role as Almodóvar’s alter ego is none other than Antonio Banderas, who was given his first roles in the director’s early films before he upped and carved out a career in the US.

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He plays a hypochondriac film director, Salvador Mallo, who has not been involved in any productions for years (unlike Almodóvar), yet has accumulated enough money to live in considerable luxury, surrounded by expensive artworks.

He is introduced to an actor played by Asier Etxeandia, who worked with him in the past but who fell out of favour and went his own way. The director introduces his former protégé to heroin then decides to revive an old theatre script about drug abuse which he gives him permission to perform.

The revival of the script prompts figures from his past to re-emerge, including a character based on Almodóvar’s mother in her younger years, played by Penélope Cruz.

Banderas gives a stunning performance, evoking the spirit of Almodóvar without any tendency to imitate him. At one stage he suggests “Without filming, my life is meaningless,” again giving a nod to Almodóvar’s own lurking fears at this point in his career.

The tone is both bitter and sweet and in contrast to the more flamboyant ethos of the early films this one is executed with simplicity and a restrained rigour.

In lesser hands than Almodóvar's this could have become pretentious and incestuous but it is riveting and emotionally engaging in a way that few contemporary directors could achieve. It has a universal message about how we come to terms with the approaching end of life and failing faculties as well as fears of the unknown.

Reviewed on: 18 May 2019
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Pain And Glory packshot
A film director reflects on the choices he's made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Writer: Pedro Almodóvar

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Raúl Arévalo, Nora Navas, Cecilia Roth

Year: 2019

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: Spain

Festivals:

Cannes 2019

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