REVIEW: Banderas is consistently marvelous in ‘Pain and Glory’

Director and writer Pedro Almodovar took inspiration from his own life to craft this impassioned piece of cinema.

Antonio Banderas plays the main character, Salvador Mallo, in “Pain and Glory.” Mallo is an aging filmmaker who’s well known for his talents, but hasn’t made a hit in some time. As he’s become older, both his career and body have slowed down, with the latter causing him back pains.

Additionally, Mallo has become addicted to drugs. His most recent troubles coincides with his meeting again with past colleagues and reflecting deeply on his own past.

What makes “Pain and Glory” so watchable is its honest, real portrayals of aging. The film deeply explores the process of personal growth, and a person’s introspective on that growth as time moves on.

There’s a lot of perspective into the main character’s psyche and it becomes engaging to watch him go through emotional experiences. This is true both for the scenes showing the character as an adult and the others covering his time as a child growing up in poverty.

The flow back and forth between Mallo’s time as a child and his life as an adult are somewhat inconsistent, but never jarring. It is true, though, that the movie’s story feels a bit too loose at times.

There are some moments where the movie meanders a bit, and it causes the picture to lose just a tad of steam. In some cases it feels like the movie’s story could have had somewhat of a stricter focus.

Sony Pictures International Releasing

What is never in doubt is the performance from Banderas, who definitely deserved his Oscar nomination for this. The sadness the character has, the uncertainty over his future, and the considerations of what might have been had he done things differently are all wonderfully on display thanks to Banderas’ strong work.

There’s a rawness to Banderas’ performance that is very convincing. The character is noticeably vulnerable throughout the picture and Banderas is great in capturing this.

Also deserving a lot of credit is Penelope Cruz, who plays Mallo’s mother during the sequences showing him as a child. Cruz gives the character both strength and warmth, very well portraying a mother raising a child in a difficult situation.

Of course, plenty of praise also has to go to Almodovar for his strong direction and writing to bring this film together in a beautifully intimate way. Almodovar is masterful in crafting this melancholy picture.

“Pain and Glory” is a very well made film. The talent behind and in front of the camera really shines through. Despite stumbling in a few spots, it’s strong overall. 4.25 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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