Starring: Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Leonardo Sbaraglia
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Running Time: 108 mins
Pain And Glory (Dolor y gloria) is a Spanish film about an aging film director who, while struggling through a series of debilitating ailments, finds himself reflecting on his life.
A film about a movie director is always something to light up the eyes of any cinephile, but a movie based on the life of one of cinema’s most charismatic directors? Now that’s something really worth watching, and so proves the case with Pedro Almodóvar’s wonderfully intimate semi-autobiographical Pain And Glory.
Featuring all of the director’s hallmarks from beginning to end, including those legendarily bright, vibrant colours, an enjoyable yet engrossing sense of humour, and brilliant emotional depth throughout, Pain And Glory is one of Almodóvar’s best works in quite a while, furthered by a scene-stealing lead performance from Antonio Banderas as director Salvador Mallo, a figure that represents Almodóvar himself.
So, there’s only one place to start with this movie, and that’s its semi-autobiographical story. In similar fashion to Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma last year, Almodóvar uses the story of his life as a starting point for the story here, injecting it with so much personal passion and detail that it’s hard not to be thoroughly endeared and captivated by every moment. But beyond being just a story about his life, Almodóvar still gives the movie that extra of flair he’s so well-known for, bringing in fictional elements and other real-world inspiration to craft an enthralling story throughout.
So that’s one thing to bear in mind, if you’re looking for a factual account of the life of Pedro Almodóvar, then this isn’t the film you need to see. Perhaps, though, a semi-autobiographical, semi-fictional version of the director’s life – told through his own work – is a better way to understand more about the man, and directly get an experience of the filmmaker he is through the film’s style and atmosphere, which has all the maturity and tender drama that you would expect of a man reminiscing about his long life, but still with that effortlessly charismatic style that can make an Almodóvar movie so good.
As a result, the film has a very intimate and personal feel throughout, and you’re able to form an incredibly strong connection with Antonio Banderas’ character as the story weaves between his youth in poverty and the present day in crippling pain. But more than just the main character, Almodóvar uses such brilliant attention to detail throughout, creating a deeply immersive and entirely captivating depiction of a lifetime.
That attention to detail was what I loved so much about Roma, with the dog droppings in the driveway my personal favourite memory of the movie, and Almodóvar achieves exactly the same thing here. Whether it’s the memories of his mother in his youth, or the wonderfully imperfect nature of their house at the time, it’s small details like these that really create a strong, passionate atmosphere in a film, and serve so much in making it a truly captivating and intimate watch.
When it comes to the story itself, the parts that are directly based on Almodóvar’s memories and experiences are clear as day, being filled with a personal passion and detail that’s impossible to pull out of thin air – the final twenty minutes in particular are astonishingly moving – and as such the plot only serves to further deepen your connection with the character on screen and the man behind the camera.
There are times where the story hits a rough patch or two, failing to properly deliver on the emotional power of the most impressive moments, and there are also times when the movie – as captivating as it is – is missing a little bit of spectacle, occasionally lumbering with a slightly misguided direction before turning a corner and becoming a brilliant piece of work once again.
Finally, we mustn’t forget the lead performance from Antonio Banderas, which is just excellent throughout. Not only does he capture Almodóvar’s spirit to the extent that the story’s autobiographical nature is clear from the start, but Banderas also gives a physically impressive turn, brilliantly portraying a man in real physical and mental pain as he approaches his old age, with subtle but brilliantly effective changes in voice and posture that are made all the more clear when we take brief steps into the past, only to see just how different Banderas acts with his character in a healthier state.
Overall, then, I was thoroughly impressed with Pain And Glory. A riveting, engrossing and deeply immersive film that takes a wonderfully intimate look at the life of its own director, it’s filled with Another’s Almodóvar’s unmistakable energy throughout, as well as passionate, personal and moving emotional drama, all brought to life in fantastic style by Antonio Banderas, and that’s why I’m giving the film a 7.7.