At The Movies: Spain's turbulent past revisited in Parallel Mothers

A still from the movie Parallel Mothers. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION/EL DESEO DA SLU

Parallel Mothers (R21)

123 minutes, opens Feb 17

4 stars

Celebrated Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodovar makes one of his most overtly political films yet in this engrossing work, which operates in a present clouded by a stubbornly unresolved past.

Janis (frequent Almodovar collaborator Penelope Cruz) is a photographer who, after a single encounter with a man she just met, becomes pregnant.

Opting to keep the baby, she meets Ana (Milena Smit), a teen from a wealthy family and soon-to-be single mother, in the maternity ward.

Their encounter will carry consequences, especially for Janis, who is also trying to open an official study of a mass grave close to her ancestral village, the site of executions during the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939).

Writer-director Almodovar displays his usual mastery of woman-centric melodrama, a talent that encompasses his ability to draw arresting performances from veteran actress Cruz and relative newcomer Smit.

The film has been rewarded with two Oscar nominations, for Best Actress for Cruz and Best Original Score.

Like his previous film, the loosely autobiographical Pain And Glory (2019), the fear of time running out bubbles beneath the story, which on its surface deals with matters of motherhood and what it means to women at different life stages: Ana's youth and wealth is offset by her cold family, while Janis' age is compensated for by her loving circle of family and friends.

The ticking clock here refers to the portions of Spanish history Almodovar fears will vanish down the memory hole, especially the period of the civil war which saw the massacre of thousands.

Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (M18)

A still from the movie Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR

114 minutes, opens Feb 17 exclusively at The Projector

4 stars

Pulpy action meets critique of Indonesian politics and manhood in this weird but enjoyable mash-up of a movie, adapted from the acclaimed 2014 novel of the same name.

Inside a revenge plot, there are impotence jokes, kickboxing duels, street races and, for good measure, a haunted house.

Edwin, the mononymous director who also adapted Eka Kurniawan's best-selling book, makes intelligent choices that stop this ambitious work from lapsing into slapstick silliness, Quentin Tarantino quotations or chaos.

His deftness in keeping the tone poised between ironic humour and serious drama helped it take home the Golden Leopard for Best Film at 2021's Locarno Film Festival.

Set in the 1980s in a rural part of the country dominated by oligarchs with ties to the military, the lonely and troubled Ajo (Marthino Lio) is a local lout known for starting fights. While trying to kill a shady businessman, he runs into formidable bodyguard Iteung (Ladya Cheryl).

Their combat melts into compassion, which blossoms into love. Their relationship forces him to confront his humiliating secret: his impotence.

Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006) unpacked national historical trauma in a fantasy involving fairies and fauns. In this sly look at the link between injured male pride and violence, Edwin takes the same indirect approach. He uses the language of Indonesian action cinema to talk about wounds left over from decades of murder and theft by men in uniforms.

Uncharted (PG)

Uncharted stars Mark Wahlberg (left) and Tom Holland. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

116 minutes, opens Feb 17

Not reviewed

In this adaptation of the popular video game, Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg star as two adventurers in search of a mythical treasure.

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