Pain And Glory review

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Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain And Glory lands in UK cinemas – and here’s our review.

Certificate: 15
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia
Release date: Out now
Reviewer: Amanda Keats

In director Pedro Almodóvar’s latest, he’s back with two of his favourite actors: Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. Salvador (Banderas) is an ageing film director struggling with chronic pain and repressed childhood issues when he gets a call that his film from three decades ago is being re-released, causing him to rewatch it for the first time since the premiere and think back on years gone by. As we delve deeper into Salvador’s story, we learn about his early childhood with his mother (Cruz), what led him to become a director and why he has become such a recluse now.

So many complex themes are interwoven into this poetic tale of art, love, legacy and family – a story that also explores the struggle of poverty and breaking out of the restrictions placed on you by society. But this is no impossible task for the director who has made a career out of exploring the human condition so beautifully. One of Almodóvar’s greatest strengths is the way he explores the simple complexity of human connection. Mothers and sons, siblings, lovers… Almodóvar can handle them all and he does it superbly here, once again.

Pain And Glory is underwritten by Salvador’s constant physical pain, a pain we’re never allowed to forget thanks to Banderas’ superb physical encapsulation of it. His every move is tinged with effort, and you become so invested in his struggle that you desperately want him to find relief and joy once more. As is the norm for the Spanish writer/director, Almodóvar gives great attention to detail to every single aspect of the film. The bright and powerful colours and textures awaken the senses, and lure you in in a manner that is gentler and more subtle, but far more powerful as a result. Almodóvar knows how to bring out every layer so deftly and gradually, unpacking both the physical and mental depths of Salvador’s pain and revealing each part to his audience in way that’s utterly engrossing. We often hear that it’s best to show not tell, and Almodóvar might just be the greatest at doing exactly this. He gets so much out of his cast by encouraging them to simply be. Banderas, especially, brings a raw yet understated performance that evokes a real depth of emotion without ever feeling overly sentimental or over the top.

The film takes a little too long to get going, but once it finds its feet it’s visceral and engaging, whilst somehow retaining a lightness of touch. You don’t realise how much you’ve been brought in to this world until you’re already inside it. And it’s a moving and sublime place to be.

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