Dolor y gloria (Pain and Glory) | Pedro Almodovar


Pain and Glory, directed by Pedro Almodovar and starring Antonio Banderas as Spanish filmmaker Salvador Mallo, is a warm, bittersweet drama about coming to terms with the guilt and regrets we hold in our hearts. The tremendous pain Salvador feels in his body is a manifestation of all that he has not been able to do for his mother Jacinta (Penelope Cruz) the person to whom he felt closest. Ever since her death, life has come to a standstill, with no drive left in him. This state of his mind has brought a halt to his inspirational career as he stares helplessly yet passively at his gradually fading glory.


The film begins with the re-release of one of his older films from 32 years ago, forcing him to re-connect with its lead actor and his friend, Alberto (Asier Etxeandia) with whom he had a falling out over the latter's interpretation of his role in the film, and then leading him into situations where he keeps going back to the beautiful times he had spent with his mother. Through these dreamy flashbacks shot in soft-focus and vivid colours, we are told everything his mother did for her dear boy. We come to know of Salvador's genius and his friendship with his grownup student, Eduardo, a young mason.


The flashbacks are intercut with Salvador's current life, guiding him through his various pains as he makes amends with life, tying each loose end that has left him feeling so broken and aimless. With every closure, he begins to feel more invigorated, until finally, he goes to a doctor to remove a growth in his throat that makes him choke frequently. As he is able to "swallow" life again, we find him recreating the happy episodes from his childhood for the screen and looking, for the first time since we've known him, content and motivated.


The colour red signifies so much in the movie, from bright hues of naive sexual awakening and cheerful reminiscences, like the blood gushing in an excited youth's veins, to darker, aged hues which remind us either of decay, like congealed blood, or of maturity, like wine. When life becomes worth living again, the colours become vivid. Glory comes back to Salvador when he faces his pains head on.


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