Pain and Glory: Film Review

Antonio Banderas won the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in Pedro Almodovar‘s Pain and Glory earlier this year and now I can see why. What a terrific performance!

The Spanish drama follows Salvador Mallo, a film director who is experiencing a physical decline. He hasn’t worked in years because his chronic pain – which includes back pain and severe headaches – has become too great. One day, he reunites with Alberto (Asier Etxeandia), the star of his film Sabor, for the first time after they fell out 30+ years ago and he is introduced to heroin, a sweet, sweet relief for his problems.

This sounds very bleak, like it’s going to be this depressing drug addiction drama, but that’s just one element of this character study. The film also delves into Mallo’s childhood – with Penelope Cruz as his mother – and explores an encounter with an old boyfriend, among others. It’s quite light-hearted and very funny in places and I laughed out loud several times.

Banderas gives one of the best performances of his career, if not the best. Mallo has a lot going on but Banderas portrays it in this subtle, effortless way – you rarely see him visibly showing that he’s in pain. Even though Mallo is in physical decline, he doesn’t make you feel sorry for him, and it was interesting watching more facts about his life reveal themselves slowly and cleverly.

Cruz doesn’t appear much but gives a commanding performance as the stressed mother, always trying her best in their struggling circumstances, while Etxeandia shows great range between playing the drug addict and fading movie star to proving his talent in a dramatic one-man show.

Almodovar has created an interesting and oddly charming character with a fascinating history and his script is almost flawless. The film felt a little too long but the twist ending makes it all worth it – it totally elevates what has come before and gives you a newfound appreciation for the film.

In cinemas from Friday 23rd August 

Rating: 4/5

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