Pedro Almodóvar’s most autobiographical film, Pain and Glory is heavy on the pain and light on the glory. A melancholy Antonio Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a filmmaker suffering from the same ailments as Almodóvar, with the addition of a fictional opioids addiction. Feeling creatively tapped out, Salvador aimlessly reconnects with people from his past — an actor he alienated, a former lover and so on. At the same time, childhood memories are bubbling up, particularly of his first crush, at age 10, on a hunky laborer he taught to read and write.
The present day sequences are disturbing yet somewhat drained of feeling, as Salvador’s malaise seems to infuse the filmmaking. But the flashbacks are vibrant, colorful and enthralling, in part because the radiant Penélope Cruz portrays Salvador’s mother and in part because the setting — a home in a whitewashed cavern with a skylight open to the sun and rain — is so distinct. By the end, past and present merge in the discovery of a drawing, and the fragmented movie itself is suddenly made whole. Redemption is suggested, if not guaranteed. This is, after all, an Almodóvar film.
Starts Nov. 15 at Grail Moviehouse