January 28, 2020 – With the video release of this film, I finally got to see it last night on DVD in my home theater. It is impressive, as are many of Pedro Almodóvar's films, but it seemed more autobiographical in nature than his other films, although parts of it are fictional. Watching the interview on the same disc with Almodóvar and others involved in the film, this impression is confirmed.
The film follows Spanish screenplay writer and film director Salvador Mallo (played by Antonio Banderas of “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”) as he is trapped in a downward emotional spiral in his life. He can't sleep because of severe back pain. He can't write screenplays and he cannot direct films either, and he feels his life is now meaningless.
Suffering from a variety of physical and emotional problems, Mallo resorts to using heroin, a dangerous drug that will probably lead to his death, but he seems resigned to his fate. He does manage to reconcile with an old colleague, Alberto Crespo (played by Asier Etxeandia) an actor who starred in his film, (Sabor, or Flavor). Although the two cannot seem to get past their old arguments over that film, Mallo does end up giving Crespo material for a one-man stage play.
An old flame of Mallo's, Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia) just happens to see the play and contacts Mallo. The two have a pleasant meeting, and Mallo is heartened. Mallo is further heartened when he finds a painting of himself that was made when he was a boy. The painter, Eduardo (César Vicente) had sent it to him years before, but his mother had hidden it from him. Somehow, the painting ends up in a gallery and it finally finds its way to its intended owner. This further heartens Mallo.
There are two distinct time periods in this film. One time period finds Mallow as a young boy (played by Asier Flores) living in an underground house with his mother (played by Penélope Cruz of “Volver”). He gives lessons in reading and arithmetic to a local bricklayer and painter, Eduardo.
The later time period has Banderas playing Mallo, with some scenes from a slightly earlier time period with his elderly mother (now played by Julieta Serrano) who has died in the later time period of the film. This latest time period is one in which the most important parts of the story happen. The earlier time periods give important background information on why Mallo has become the way he is.
Like many of Almodóvar's films, this one is highly emotional and personal. I would think this film would probably appeal to an older audience with its message of a man reconnecting with his emotional center, after losing himself in despair brought on by age and medical problems. This film is well acted and directed. It rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.