Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, Parallel Mothers tells the story of two pregnant women waiting to give birth in a hospital. Sharing the same room, Janis (Penelope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit) exchange pleasantries and gradually get to know one another. Janis is middle-aged and deep into her career, without any second thoughts or regrets about her decision (to have the baby). Ana, however, is a scared, traumatized teenager who’s nervous about going forward. Their time together is short, but the conversation they develop will forever link them together.

The story is creative and appealing, but the execution was missing something. A lot of the scenes with Penelope Cruz felt unnecessarily elongated. On top of that, the film was entirely too long. A run time of 123 minutes is creeping too close into Hobbit territory sans the action or adventure. But one thing this film does have is drama.

Janis is a professional photographer and Ana is a student. Their career trajectory may not be congruent but they share tragic, shaky pasts that are the root of their traumas. There’s infidelity, rape, extortion, lies, theft, and even war crimes. If you wanted a drama, this film is up there with the best of them.

Penélope Cruz as Janis, Milena Smit as Ana in PARALLEL MOTHERS. © El Deseo, photo by Iglesias Más. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

I’m not sold on Penelope Cruz being the anchor of the film but she does enough to get by. There’s a backstory surrounding the proper burial of past relatives that could’ve played out differently onscreen. Instead of adding to the captivating storyline, it assisted in prolonging this already drawn-out film.

Parallel Mothers gets a 7.5 out of 10. You can see it on the big screen starting Friday, January 21, where available. The plot pulled my attention and I loved Milena Smit’s acting, but in all honesty, the runtime should’ve been 40 minutes shorter.

-Jon Jones

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