Pain and Glory

Pedro Almodóvar has long warmed his filmography with flickers of details from his personal life. But Pain & Glory, his latest, brings us closer to the flame. In it, we look in on Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), a filmmaker in self-imposed exile due to a creative decline and a variety of physical ailments. After reconnecting with key figures from his past, he starts to pull himself out of his cocoon. Almodóvar is aware of the story’s potential for self-important navel-gazing, which he avoids through a restrained use of flashbacks to his childhood (brought out through Mallo’s brief dalliance with heroin), his tender relationship with his mother (Penelope Cruz and, in her older years, Julieta Serrano), and his blossoming sexuality. But what truly steers this film toward greatness is Banderas, who stifles his melodramatic tendencies to subtly, powerfully reveal Mallo’s internal agonies and slow evolution.

by Robert Ham
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Pedro Almodóvar
Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia