Film Review: Pain & Glory

When the student is ready, Almodóvar will appear

Hindsight may not be such the rewarding thing we once believed according to the gloriously beautiful (is there any other kind?) new Pedro Almodóvar  directed movie ‘Pain & Glory’ (2019), but as with the many other demons that are wont to steer our life decisions, or more aptly, indecisions, the sooner we learn to live in comfort with them, the sooner we learn to LIVE.

This realiseation can of course come at any age, if indeed it comes at all. There is definitely a large percentage of people who arriving at their final moment, will think ‘was that it?’, or more likely ‘okay, I’d really like another go at this thing we call life please’. Hopefully this revelation comes at a point where we have years to go play with it.

Depending on how well you know Pedro’s cinematic colouring book life stories of movies, all sumptuously rich and vibrant, full of life colour, enhanced characters, all being mixed by a real alchemist of rainbows, there’s a various moments where you realise that the movie HAS to be an autobiography of sorts. The reason I mention this is because until recently, despite the technicolour evidence glowing before our eyes, Pedro was saying it wasn’t, that stance has since changed, as to be honest, there is no way it could be denied. Obviously, there is sublime creative license, but it is irrelevant what is true and what isn’t, as all our memories are lies, reworked by our internal directors, screening our lives with rose-tinted, or thorn rimmed glasses. The journey of this movie is certainly more of a darkly comedic thorns and ailments, but the unwavering embrace of devoutly candid beauty is resolute.

Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas, who started his movie career with Pedro) is a hugely celebrated and recognised movie director, renowned for a repertoire of outstanding works. The only issue with this is that they were all from years ago, and although hugely successful and rewarded, he now lives in what is effectively a museum to his own life (having travelled from a literal cave), whilst he is still alive, which through the perspective of  his own hypochondria, won’t be for much longer. 

Certainly he is of more than a few decades in age, but by no means is his life over, he just believes it is. This mentality is taking its toil (we all ultimately become who we are inside), as is made apparent by a wonderfully funny wry animated medical sequence that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond movie describes the ceaseless myriad of expanding chronics the artist has, collecting them like life awards, systematically replacing the trophies of achievements on his life shelf.   

This infinity of pain has completely warped his lense on not only his present and future, but along with a forthcoming retrospective, has triggered a period of self-reflection, and a certain pining for the simplicity and integrity of yesteryear. 

Mallo is basically Almodóvar, which only enhances the entire experience, as despite any license employed, there are profound truths and vulnerabilities at play that are deeply poignant and stunningly rewarding in their honesty, an honesty that seems all the more raw and celebrated with an extraordinary palette of colour, cinematography (José Luis Alcaine) and music (Alberto Iglesias).

Banderas is truly phenomenal, tenderly giving absolutely one of the greatest performances of his life, about the life of his life long dear friend. But he is surrounded by equally great actors all giving their best to celebrate one of the world’s greatest directors, at once being a work of art, a celebration and a therapy season.

There are many Almodóvar  acting regulars on board for this reflective journey into the future, and as with a time travelling butterfly effect, the people that Pedro affected in his artistic travels, have returned to affect his creation, and in turn, him as a human/artist/storyteller.

The movie is stunningly rich in celebration (despite the misery/anguish) of life, loves, cinema, experiences, revelations, relations, awakenings, idiocies, addictions, forgiveness, vulnerabilities, honesty and emotions, as we follow the chapters of key moments throughout the boy becoming the man, and vice versa to rediscover who he is meant to be.

There are so many beautiful/gentle (and funny) moments as ex colleagues, friends and lovers drift back into his life, at the exact time that he needs them. Where once he may have enriched their lives with life experiences (not always positive), they now willingly return the gifts, nourishing the flower to bloom again.

Overall it’s a celebration of storytelling and cinema, both of which have saved the character, the director, and me many a time. Long live cinema, long LIVE us all!  

‘Pain & Glory’ is out now.