MiniReview: "All About My Mother" (film)

The "father" (played by Toni Cantó) who is the object of the search in All About My Mother

What is it?

A 1999 Spanish film, directed by Pedro Almódovar.


What’s it about?

Following the death of her teenaged son, a woman makes a trip to Barcelona in search of the son’s father, who now lives as a woman named Lola. Her search leads her to meet assorted colourful characters, including a transvestite, two lesbian actresses and a pregant, HIV-positive young woman.


Sounds pretty queer.

It’s pretty much the archetypal queer film, with lots of gender fluidity going on, all of it wrapped up in beautiful bright colours and melodrama.


Is that a good thing?

Here, it certainly is. One senses that this is simply Almódovar’s style, his way of seeing the world, and it’s delightful, funny, touching. One never senses any inauthenticity here, any striving to be queer. It just is queer. For lovers of Hollywood cinema, there’s an added layer of enjoyment from the parallels between this film and the 1950 classic All About Eve. But this is not by any means a queer retelling of that film; this is a fully realized story that has an added piquancy for those who know (and love, like me) the 1950 film.


Is this as good as All About Eve?

No. This is a fabulously enjoyable film with a huge heart, but I think a lot of its power comes from its style—and style is not depth, it’s just style. This is a film to be savoured like a sunny afternoon by the sea. Life doesn’t get much better than this, but it doesn’t necessarily leave much of a mark. That said, there is something precious about seeing a film in which every character, however complicated or troubled or flawed, is manifestly worthy of love and sympathy. This is a priceless message for LGBT folk.



Two stars. For me, this is an emblematic queer film. My reservation about queer art in general is that it often eschews depth of meaning in favour of spectacle and shock value. This film is about as good as it gets as far as queer cinema goes—highly intelligent, multilayered, very funny, visually appealing. I’m just not sure it’s saying a whole lot. If it was saying more, perhaps it wouldn’t be queer any longer, but it might be among the truly great films. As it is, it’s very, very, very good! And that’s more than enough.

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