Antonio Banderas, even in his late 50s, still has the charms in Almodovar’s latest opus.
I went to see Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory” without knowing what to expect. I knew it had something to do with a filmmaker’s career, but I was eager to see the true colors inside. That’s when we meet Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), who reflects on his life as a young reader living in poverty with his seamstress mother (Penelope Cruz-young-and Julieta Serrano-old), and later as a filmmaker with a number of medical problems, which force him to take a hiatus from his work.
One of the issues is how he chokes on his liquids, because of a lump in his throat, and that’s why he barely eats. When we see him choke early in the film, we really worry about his well-being.
But it’s not just his health issues. A cinema is hosting a screening of his 80s classic “Sabor,” and asks if he and his star Angelo Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) can participate in a Q&A. The thing is he’s disliked the actor’s performance, because of how he did heroin off camera, and when he reunited with Angelo, he’s pretty surprised himself.
At one point, he plays Dalton Trumbo as he decides to give the rights of one of his stories to Angelo, which make it on a small stage. This ends up introducing us to the film’s romance, as his old lover Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia) comes back into his life.
And we presumably see the little Salvador (Asier Flores) discover his homosexuality when the illiterate painter he tutored (César Vincente) takes a bath, and faints. That or he just had a heat stroke, because the abode he resides in is a cave.
“Pain and Glory” proves that even if Banderas is soon turning 60, he still has the words and style that made him iconic and charming. He plays a filmmaker with a number of problems-physically and mentally-and we become concerned about his issues. Almodovar acknowledges some harsh realities that filmmakers can struggle through, and that makes sense.
The flashback childhood scenes are not as classical as Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” but they are revealing about the main protagonist’s life. He was never abused, and he has a loving mother who wants the best for him. Cruz is fine as the young version of her, and Serrano puts her foot down as the elderly version, who chastises her son for his relationship with her, given his movie career. And his reaction is sweet and sensitive.
I also admire how the male supporting characters have their own personas that affect Salvador’s life. Kudos to Sbaraglia, Etxeandia, and Vincente for being themselves, and never selling themselves short. We view each character as human beings, and I suppose that’s how Almodóvar presents them.