“Pain and Glory” Review – Embracing Mortality

Antonio Banderas shines in Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film.

Most US film-goers may not know Pedro Almodóvar, but it’s likely they’ve heard of his films if they’re a fan of the Oscars or a wider array of cinema beyond our borders. Almodóvar has received two Oscars since 1999, one for Best Foreign Language Film (All About My Mother) and one for Best Original Screenplay (Talk to Her). Many of his films have been in competition for the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and he has received plenty of awards and acclaim for nearly every work he creates. His most recent film, Pain and Glory, reunites him with Antonio Banderas for the 8th time, and sees the actor taking on the role of a director based entirely on Almodóvar himself.

The film sees Banderas as Salvador Mallo, a film director who is beginning to feel the aches and pains of his old age. At the start of the film he lists off numerous ailments he must deal with on a daily basis, mostly thanks to his old age, but some due to bigger issues. Salvador yearns to create again, after taking years off from directing due to his physical pains, but he also seems to be fighting with the emotional pains of his past as well. He reconnects with an actor, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) from one of his more well known films, and tries to mend the relationship they once had. In the process taking up heroin, which helps relieve his pains- while also helping him remember his past.

Pain and Glory - Salvador
Image via Sony

We get to explore Salvador’s childhood, and receive glimpses of his time with his mother before she passed- three years prior to the start of the film. We also learn that Salvador was torn apart by a love lost to drug addiction. Alberto discovers a manuscript entitled “Addiction,” which explains how Salvador fell in love with a man who could not give up drugs, and in the end he couldn’t stay with him and watch his love throw his life away with drug. Alberto’s discovery of the manuscript helps show where Salvador is now in his life. He has poured his heart out into this piece about his one true love who he was forced to leave, because he couldn’t watch him destroy himself with drugs- yet Salvador himself is now taking up the same drugs to cope with his own physical pain.

The film is a deeply layered narrative that doesn’t tell you everything. It gives you everything you need to know, but it lets you piece it all together as you choose. It’s straight forward, and unassuming. It’s colorful and funny, yet incredibly heartbreaking and gut wrenching. You feel for Salvador, and you can feel his pain as he reunites with old friends and family and different things that have deep meaning in his life. It’s a truly beautiful film that is grounded by a truly beautiful performance by Banderas.

Rating: A

Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria) is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital.

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Pain and Glory Poster
Image via Sony
Written by Alex Lancaster
(Alex is a life long film fan, and has dedicated his life to watching, making and obsessing over films. His favorite film is Big Fish, and he despises Avatar. He has a 5 year old son. And a bad habit of saying more than he needs to. Follow @alex5348 on Twitter)


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