English Review – Pain & Glory (2019)


This is the most beautiful film of last year, if I speak.

Pain & Glory (Dolor y Gloria) is just unlucky they had to compete with Parasite in last week’s Academy Awards’ Best International Film. This film would have won it. It has the capacity of being the best, it has the charisma of being loved. My first response is that this film is utterly beautiful. The most beautiful film of last year, if I speak.

Pain & Glory offers a very fundamental form of drama. About the life of oneself which always has its singularity, the charm of authenticity. Doesn’t always have to do with conflicts. It’s a sincere storytelling that purely relies on its urgency to share its story. Some of the very strong drama gives a massive character study, and this film may have it too, but Pain & Glory has an aura to only tell a tale rather than to think about it. It wants you to listen, not analyze. That’s why I call that sincere.

Pain & Glory follows the life of the 50’s something now-vacuum Spaniard director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) as he reunited with his fellow working actor, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) as their film of many years ago got remastered to appreciative audiences. Their meeting led to Crespo obsession into Mallo’s private memoir, and Mallo’s sudden affection of Crespo’s heroin which later brings him into sort of rumination, sort of unusual decision. Mallo is so screwed up he tries to seek what he missed about his life. He long for something in the past. He knows he needs that to do what is next for him.

Pain & Glory goes forth and back like it’s a life’s highlight. From ’60s where child Mallo lived with his mother (Penelope Cruz) in a basement-like cave in Paterna, as his story by being an intelligent kid and taught someone older than him how to spell. Then becoming adult, moved in Madrid, and being in a special relationship in recent past. Mallo began to discover film, and recently facing the impossibility to continue, instead he has to confront his drug addiction of present.
This film narrative feels very personal I barely knew just after it ends, that the film is basically an autograph of its director, Pedro Almodóvar. Which makes it even more special.

I adore its audacity to express such materials that may be too sensitive for some. Almodóvar isn’t hesitant nor ashamed here, instead he embraces all of parts of his life as something that shaped, defined him. Through Mallo, he’s saying it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Pain & Glory is a therapeutic reconciliation towards oneself in which closed by an undeniably staggering last frame of the film. The intimacy reminds of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. And like Roma, I think Pain & Glory too deserve better attention, if not also, an award acclamation.