March 25, 2020  (Web Review)

All About My Mother

Criterion, 101 min., in Spanish w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Writing in VL-7/00, reviewer K. Lee Benson said, “One thing about watching movies by Pedro Almodóvar: you don’t complacently sit back and yawn, “I’ve seen this before.” Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, this 1999 melodrama is rich with colorful incidents and characters. Cecilia Roth heads a magnificent ensemble as Manuela, whose beloved 17-year-son Esteban is fatally hit by a car when he tries to obtain a favorite actress’s autograph. Setting out for Barcelona to track down the father her son never knew, Manuela’s search begins in a Fellini-esque outdoor hangout called “the field,” where she is reunited with Agrado, an indomitable transvestite prostitute. Eventually, she will also meet the actress Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes), who was oblivious to her son’s death, and Sister Rosa (Penelope Cruz), a nun who once tended Esteban’s father. Mere synopsis does not do this film justice. All About My Mother gives new meaning to the “circle of life,” as Manuela, who coordinates and appears in educational videos promoting organ transplants, is forced to make that tragic decision herself when Esteban is killed. Also, as a former actress who once appeared in A Streetcar Named Desire, Manuela finds herself back on the stage as Stella 20 years later. Coincidence and passion are always in fashion in Almodóvar’s world.” Joining the Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray, All About My Mother features extras including a 2012 “making-of” documentary, a 1999 TV program featuring Almodóvar and his mother along with cast members, a 2019 post-screening Q&A with cast and crew, and a booklet. One of the ebulliently daring director’s best, this is highly recommended. (R. Pitman)