Banderas shines in Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory”

Pain and Glory (Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Penelope Cruz, Nora Navas) – It is a foregone conclusion that Parasite will win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  The only other real competition is famed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory.  Starring Antonio Banderas, P&G follows the later life of movie writer and director Salvador Mallo, whose life has faded into sickness, despair and depression.

Mallo is barely existing in his well-appointed apartment, choking when he eats almost any solid food and suffering from myriad physical problems.  But it is his emotional infirmities that leave him a shadow of his former self.  Then, one day, he is asked to present one of his most famous films, which has been restored, at a special screening.  The invitation is actually to present it jointly with the film’s star, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia), with whom he has not spoken since the film was released 32 years earlier.

Mallo is reluctant to do it but is convinced by a friend, Mercedes (Nora Navas), that it would be good for him to do something other than rot in his apartment.  He visits Crespo to persuade him to join him in the presentation.  It is there that Mallo tries heroin for the first time.  Of course, he gets hooked as the drug gives him some respite from his overwhelming pain.  In his stupor, he relives his childhood, re-explores his complicated relationship with his mother (played as a young woman by Almodóvar’s frequent collaborator, Penelope Cruz), and forces him to face his now empty life.

The rest of the film is Salvador’s flashback journey through time, the diagnosis of his illness, and his reunion with an old love, which reawakens his passion for writing and film.

Banderas, who was nominated for Best Actor, sparkles in every shade of Salvador.  As with all great performances, you lose the actor in the character, a rare joy for the audience.  The film is vintage Almódovar, including the twist at the end.

If you can’t see it in the theater, it is available to rent on a couple of the streaming services for less than it costs at your local movie house.  It is subtitled, of course, so settle in for one man’s journey into the truth of his life.

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