An emotional honesty pervades Almodóvar’s comedic melodramas. But whereas earlier works flirt garishly with kitsch and flamboyance, All About My Mother is a significantly more nuanced and controlled work. That’s not to say the award-winning director (Talk to Her, Volver) has dispensed with his camp, stylised approach.
With the tragic death of her son on his 17th birthday, Manuela (Cecilia Roth – Martin, Pain & Glory) leaves Madrid to find the boy’s father in her native Barcelona. She reunites with an old friend, Agrado (Antonia San Juan – The Platform, The Summer Side), an outspoken transgender sex worker and finds work as a personal assistant to actress Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes – The Skin I Live In, The Devil’s Backbone). Manuela also befriends a young nun, Hermana (Penelope Cruz – Volver, Vanilla Sky) who turns out to be pregnant by Lola, the transgender father of her own son.
A homage to women, female actresses (All About Eve and A Streetcar Named Desire are writ large throughout) and the Golden Age of Hollywood, All About My Mother is a gloriously complex yet heartwarming narrative as Manuela, by looking for Lola, is searching for closure.
Winner of the 2000 Oscar for best foreign language film.