I’ve never been a big fan of the films of Pedro Almodóvar, but Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria) won me over.
Antonio Banderas stars as Salvador Mallo, a famous film director who is dealing with physical and spiritual pain. He has a variety of health problems. He is homosexual and, during the course of the story, he becomes addicted to heroin. In searching his memories, he acknowledges that he has been a bad son. This is certainly not the first time that Almodóvar has dealt with aspects of his own life, most notably in All About My Mother, but never before in such extensive, revealing detail.
It has been thirty years since the release of one of Salvador’s most important films, Sabor, and he has been invited to answer questions from the audience at an upcoming retrospective screening. This brings back the unpleasant memory of his falling out with the star of the film, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia), with whom he has not spoken in thirty years. Salvador visits Alberto, who grudgingly lets him into his house and introduces him to heroin. Their friendship is renewed. During a visit to Salvador’s home, Alberto discovers a monologue about an early love affair that Salvador has written but never produced. Alberto begs Salvador to let him perform the monologue at a local theater. When he does, Salvador does not attend, but who should be in the audience but Salvador’s ex-lover, Argentinian Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who is visiting Madrid. Naturally, Federico recognizes that this piece of fond nostalgia is about him. He goes to Salvador’s home, and the two have a moving encounter. Although there is a lot more to Pain and Glory, including numerous flashbacks to Salvador’s childhood with his mother (Penélope Cruz), it is this sequence, from the monologue to Salvador and Federico’s farewell, that is most memorable.
It almost goes without saying that the artistic and technical aspects of Pain and Glory are top-of the line, including, but not limited to, Alberto Iglesias’ score, Teresa Font’s editing and José Luis Alcaine’s cinematography.
This is Pedro Almodóvar’s first Oscar nomination since 2003, when he won the Best Original Screenplay award for Talk to Her. For Pain and Glory, Banderas was rewarded with his first Academy Awards nomination, having already won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival.