Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Written by: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Penélope Cruz, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas
Creating something special requires a labor of love that can break down even the strongest person. It’s made harder when a story becomes so personal to the storyteller and the way Pain and Glory captures that affection and the subtle underlying feelings of its characters forge a tale that warms your heart.
Having not worked for many years and in the middle of a creative crisis, Salvador (Antonio Banderas) has one of his previous works remastered and brought back into the spotlight. This newfound appreciation drives him to reconnect with the people of his past and look back into the foundational moments of his childhood.
No one can create stories like the legendary Spanish director, Pedro Almodóvar. He always exudes a type of warmth that makes you never want to leave. He’s able to tap into the human experience and how we battle our emotions with such precision and care. With masterclasses like All About My Mother and Volver, he adds this poetic and symbolic piece of art with a semi-autobiographical story. Through Pain and Glory, Almodovar opens his heart to his audience in order to explore his insecurities about growing older and the legacy he’s leaving behind.
Every single performance in the film is phenomenal beyond belief with the best one brought by Antonio Banderas. An actor that has never received the respect he deserves and what he brings pure magic to this film. Almodovar has the audacity to define good acting only for Banderas to go ahead and do it perfectly. The key to the performance lies in how he ponders the ideas of his mortality and holds back the very emotions that bring him down. One scene, in particular, involves the character, Salvador, listening to an old friend describe how their life has progressed since their last meeting. The construction of the scene is simple but the camera focuses on Antonio’s face and what he does shattered my heart into pieces. It’s an acting performance for the ages and demonstrates the pure talent Banderas has always displayed combined with the wisdom of his experience.
Along with Banderas, this film employs another Almodóvar regular in Penelope Cruz, who gives her best performance in another collaboration, Volver. She portrays Salvador’s mother in the flashback sequences and she brings a fiery passion mixed with the despair any mother would have for her child. She has an ever-present love even when her frustration reaches her boiling point and the pure perseverance she’s able to exude through her character can comfort the audience into knowing everything will work out. She’s a Spanish legend and shows once again that she still has plenty to offer, especially when working with Almodóvar.
The filmmaking displayed in this feature displays an elegance and style only Almodóvar could display. Through the production design, he utilizes sets that are always intensely red demonstrating passion flowing through the characters. This film has a subdued story because it matches how Almodóvar lives life currently. The characters feel more held back but filled with more emotion than ever before. His script matches perfectly with the characters and their delivery. A simple “no” on the screen mixes with so many layered emotions because his characters are in a different stage of life just like the director. There’s a beautiful sense of reflection in the film that almost haunts Salvador. It’s a battle of the physical and the mental as indicated through the title. His body and mind are in a different place than they were years ago and further displays that Almodovar could not have directed this film in his youth. It’s a product of a life that has experienced love, heartbreak, and loneliness.
No one knows exactly how autobiographical this story is for Almodóvar, but the love and affection he has for these characters show a true emotional attachment to them. Every relationship has history and a mix of love and heartbreak at the foundation. Pain and Glory has so much beauty and made by a legend with much on his mind that he wants to let loose into the world. His collaboration with Cruz and Banderas once again proves that he wields a fire for the art of film and puts it together in his distinct style. Just when you think you have this entire story figured out, Almodóvar pulls out one of the greatest final shots in all of cinema that pretty much recontextualizes the entire story. It turns a great ending into one with incredible depth, emotional, and spiritual satisfaction.