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All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre) (R)

Cast: Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Candela Pena, Antonia San Juan

Release Date: November 19, 1999

Runtime: 1 hr. 41 mins.

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Manuela, a nurse and single mother in her late thirties must come to terms with the tragic loss of her only son, Esteban, when he is struck by a car. She never told Esteban who he was, "your father died long before you were born" was all she ever told him. In memory of her son--who's his father's namesake--Manuela leaves Madrid and goes to Barcelona in search of Esteban's father. However, the man that she left behind, eighteen years ago when she was pregnant, is now a transvestite named Lola. The search for a man with that name cannot be simple. And indeed it isn't.

Review

The maturation of Spanish writer-director Pedro Almodóvar reaches a new zenith with "All About My Mother," which builds on themes prevalent in his earlier work. His new motion picture is a paean to women in all their glories, whether it is mother, whore, nun or actress.

In fact, Almodóvar has dedicated the picture to three great stars playing actresses on screen: Gena Rowlands in "Opening Night (1977)," Romy Schneider in L'Important c'est d'aimer/The Most Important Thing: Love (1975, French)" and Bette Davis in "All About Eve" (1950). "All About Eve" is referenced numerous times, most obviously in the title.

As in any of Almodóvar's films, the plot is complicated. Essentially, it is the story of Manuela (the luminous Cecilia Roth), a single mother who works in a hospital as a transplant coordinator. In celebration of the 17th birthday of her son, Estaban (Eloy Azorin), she takes him to see "A Streetcar Named Desire," and they wait to get the autograph of the star, Huma Rojo (the superb Marisa Paredes), but Estaban is killed in a freak accident as he chases after the stage diva.

A distraught Manuela eventually leaves her home in Madrid and travels to Barcelona in search of the boy's father, who is now a transsexual named Lola. Through a serendipitous series of events, Manuela is reunited with La Agrado (a fine Antonia San Juan), a transsexual prostitute trying to "go straight", meets an HIV-positive, pregnant nun (the sublime Penélope Cruz) and, in an echo of "All About Eve," becomes the assistant to Rojo.

And this is just the setup. So much is packed into the script, but it all unfolds at a brisk pace and in a relatively straightforward manner.

Almodóvar has crafted a superb, richly entertaining film, one that not only pays homage to great screen actresses of the past but also offers memorable roles for four fine female performers of the present.

*MPAA rating: R, for sexuality, including strong sexual dialogue, language and some drug content.

"All About My Mother"

Cecilia Roth: Manuela

Eloy Azorin: Esteban

Marisa Paredes: Huma Rojo

Penélope Cruz: Hermana Rosa

Candela Pena: Nina

An SPC presentation. Director Pedro Almodóvar. Writer Pedro Almodóvar. Producer Agustin Almodovar. Director of Photography Affonso Beato. Editor Jose Salcedo. Music Alberto Iglesias. Production Designer Antxón Gómez. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Synopsis

Manuela, a nurse and single mother in her late thirties must come to terms with the tragic loss of her only son, Esteban, when he is struck by a car. She never told Esteban who he was, "your father died long before you were born" was all she ever told him. In memory of her son--who's his father's namesake--Manuela leaves Madrid and goes to Barcelona in search of Esteban's father. However, the man that she left behind, eighteen years ago when she was pregnant, is now a transvestite named Lola. The search for a man with that name cannot be simple. And indeed it isn't.

Stills