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film review
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Antonio Banderas, left, as Salvador, and Julieta Serrano as Jacinta in Pain and Glory.Leah Hennel/Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media

  • Pain and Glory
  • Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar
  • Starring: Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz
  • Classification: R; 113 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Toward the end of this slight but entertaining bit of meta from Pedro Almodovar, a film director’s old mother tells her son that her neighbours back in the village are sick of seeing themselves portrayed in his movies. Enough of the autofiction, she says. That’s one of several wry in-jokes in Almodovar’s sentimental look at artistic inspiration, said to be only lightly inspired by his own life. Antonio Banderas plays an aging gay filmmaker with numerous ailments and a creative block that is cleared by a daisy chain of coincidental encounters with figures from his past.

Reviews of movies opening this week, including the anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbit, suffocating The Lighthouse and sentimental Pain and Glory

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Penelope Cruz plays Salvador's mother in rose-tinted flashbacks.Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media

Penelope Cruz plays his mother in rose-tinted flashbacks – well, they are his memories, why shouldn’t they be nostalgic? – while in the present even a brush with heroin addiction can’t dampen Almodovar’s signature blend of melodrama, humour and gorgeous colours. Asier Etxeandia occasionally threatens to steal the show with his delicious turn as an exuberant addict, but perhaps the bravest thing here is Banderas’s reserved performance: Selfish, hypochondriac and sadly cocooned, his fictional film director is not a flattering portrait of an aging auteur.

Pain and Glory opens Oct. 25 in Toronto and Ottawa

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