February 25, 2022
As this film and numerous other films suggest, Spain is a truly modern society, even a post-modern one, with post-modern choices and challenges. Parallel mothers is about choices that are made and sometimes imposed, but not necessarily through tradition and family.
Parallel Mothers: A 2021 film by veteran Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, with nominations at the 94th Oscars in February 2022, including the nomination of best actress for international actress Penelope Cruz.
Janis Martinez is a photographer, in her thirties, who becomes more or less willingly pregnant from her lover, Arturo, a forensic archeologist she knows through her work.
At the hospital where the new baby girl is born, Janis is roomed with another mother, Ana, a teenage mother who is less enthusiastic about giving birth. At the hospital, the two newborns are mistakenly interchanged, as we learn later, and the two mothers are brought closer together as one of the newborn girls dies in her sleep, an occurrence that is known as crib death, before the mothers had realized that the baby each has is not her own, biologically speaking.
This unusual story about motherhood, its twist and turns, and its complexities, is also about Janis’ search for recovering the buried body of her grandfather and the body of other victims of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930 s, bodies that were not given proper burials by the authorities at the time, as they were simply disposed of in a mass grave.
The film ends on the holding of proper burials for those victims after proper identification is made for each one. Janis is by then reunited with her lover Arturo, who was instrumental in the successful search for the bodies of the victims, as Janis and Arturo now form a regular couple who are even expecting a new child.
The understanding of this film has given way to appropriate interpretations and understanding. One of the common understandings of the film has been to link it with its director’s (Pedro Almodovar) interest in women and maternity or as a commentator of the National Post has described, a “celebration of all things maternal”.
The film was also seen as an effort at reconciliation and collective therapy, a need that arises from the lingering memories of the cruel Spanish Civil War.
THE MOVIE SHRINK’S VIEW
The question, for the Movie Shrink, is not so much about adding to the prudent and pertinent interpretations of the film already proposed but understanding how the two stories, the one about motherhood, on the one hand, and the one about reconciliation with a painful past, on the other hand, are tied together.
And The Movie Shrink’s interpretation concerning the link between these two stories is quite straightforward.
The underlying story behind both stories is the fact that Spain, with its continued integration with Europe, has become a modern and even post-modern society, prosperous and self-assured enough to see motherhood less as something guided by the constraints of family or religious traditions and more by personal and deliberate choice.
The evolution of Spanish society and the growing prosperity and integration in the world economy experienced by Spain also opens the possibility of Spanish society as a whole to mend the wounds left over from a painful historical period.
And so, the story behind the story is a prosperous and self-confident society. This society is geared towards personal choice, for better or for worse, usually for the better, and this emerging reality appeared in another recent Spanish film, Rosa’s Wedding (2020), where the heroine decides to organize a wedding ceremony that will celebrate her marriage …to herself.