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Pain and Glory Movie Review

Pain & Glory (2019) movie poster Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria)

Theatrical Release: October 4, 2019 (Spanish Release: August 23, 2019) / Running Time: 113 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Cast: Antonio Banderas (Salvador Mallo), Asier Etxeandia (Alberto Crespo), Leonardo Sbaraglia (Federico Delgado), Nora Navas (Mercedes), Julieta Serrano (Older Jacinta), César Vicente (Eduardo), Asier Flores (Young Salvador Mallo), Penélope Cruz (Jacinta)


Spanish language filmmakers have thrived in recent years. In fact, five of the last six Oscars for Best Director have gone to Mexican auteurs. Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant, Birdman), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Roma), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)
have all managed to experience success both in their native tongues and lands and in American English. Over in Spain, though, Pedro Almodóvar seems to have zero interest in having transatlantic appeal.

Almodóvar won the 2002 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Talk with Her (Hable con ella) and though undoubtedly Hollywood studios must have tried courting him to apply his talents to something mainstream, he continues to work primarily in Spain and in Spanish, often with actors who are also famous here. Two of those accomplished, globally popular repeat collaborators feature in Pain & Glory (Dolor y gloria), Almodóvar's latest and most autobiographical work to date.

In Pedro Almodóvar's autobiographical "Pain and Glory", aging filmmaker Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas, right) reconnects with the actor (Asier Etxeandia) he had a falling out with thirty years earlier.

Antonio Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a Spanish filmmaker approaching Almodovar's age (70). On Mallo's mind lately in addition to a littany of problems involving his lungs and back, is a film he made back in the late 1980s. Mallo recently rewatched the film and found it to be quite enjoyable. He's decided he's okay with presenting it at a film festival, but only if he can do that with the star of the movie, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia). The two clashed on the movie and haven't spoken in thirty years.

Mallo reaches out to Alberto and decides to begin using heroin with his estranged colleague. That takes him down a questionable path of pain management, but the two patch things up enough to agree to appear at a Q & A session for the anniversary screening. Under the influence, they don't actually make the festival, but Mallo reluctantly gives Alberto permission to adapt for the stage a little essay the director wrote about his life.

That life is fleshed out by flashbacks showing Salvador as a boy, living in poverty with his mother (Penélope Cruz), loving the movies, and experiencing a sexual awakening around a young handyman whom he teaches to read and write.

Penélope Cruz plays Salvador Mallo's mother in the childhood flashbacks of Pedro Almodóvar's "Pain and Glory."

The film is accurately titled, as it considers both the present pain and past glory experienced by its reflective protagonist. In addition, one imagines Almodóvar felt a similar mix of the two emotions by writing this very personal tale.
Furthermore, any pain derived from being this frank and honest might just lead to awards season glory. The film has been chosen as Spain's official selection for the Best International Feature Film Oscar (formerly Best Foreign Language Film), an award for which two of the director's earlier works have been nominated, with 1999's All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre) winning.

Pain & Glory could easily end up a multiple nominee, with Banderas' career-best performance quite possibly too good to deny his first Academy Award nomination and Almodóvar's confessional script likely to at least crack voters' Original Screenplay shortlists.

But this isn't something you should only watch in the name of familiarizing yourself with all of the year's nominees. With or without industry recognition, it is a rewarding drama about looking back on life, making amends, being honest with yourself, and persevering in the face of hardship and ailment.

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Reviewed October 2, 2019.

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