Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria)

Director and writer: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Asier Flores, Penelope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Cesar Vicente
113 mins, Spain, 2019

Watched by HoneyBee and Sarah

Pedro Almodovar’s new film, about an ageing hypochondriacal writer and film director who has lost his creativity, is tender, funny and ravishingly beautiful.

HoneyBee: Almodovar weaves together colour and beauty and desire with a gentle cleverness and tenderness for his characters that is just perfect. I think there’s a kind of modesty in his brilliance: he seems to do so much by showing so little. For example, when Salvador and Federico, his lover from years before, say goodbye, there’s more desire in that scene, in which they don’t have sex, than in so many sex scenes in other films.

salv with picThe film has been called ‘autumnal’ for its representation of ageing and the loss of creative power, but it positively blazes with scarlets and yellows and sky blues; it glows with life and love.

Antonio Banderas plays ageing director Salvador Molla, who has been invited to the screening of a digitally-remastered copy of Sabor (Taste) the film that made his name and his fortune in the 1980s. A chance encounter leads him to a meeting with the actor Alberto Crespo (sexily played by Asier Etxeandia) who played the lead role in that film – with whom Salvador had a falling out, and whom he hasn’t seen since the film’s premiere. with AlbertoAlberto is a heroin addict. In a wonderfully funny scene (and there are many funny scenes) the two men do a Q&A by mobile phone after the screening, and we discover that Alberto’s addiction was the cause of the falling-out all those years ago. Now here they are chasing the dragon together.

From the present-day narrative the film moves back to the past, to Salvador’s memories of his childhood. Salva the child is played with grace and emotional intelligence by Asier Flores. We first see him as a small boy on a river bank in the company of his mother Jacinta – the incomparable Penelope Cruz – doing the laundry with other village women, singing, dancing. How Almodovar loves women. And men too!


The film shows us, triumphantly, how the past reinserts itself into the present, and how memory lies at the heart of art, at the heart of creativity.

Pain, yes. And glory too. We love Almodovar!

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