Lockdown Cinema: Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999)

When you love movies, you have favorites. but it is not always possible to re-watch them all the time. Some movies always show up on cable (like Hitchcock’s The Birds), and some, like anything by Pedro Almodovar, never happen to show up.

Luckily, Turner Classics Movies in January 2021 decided to show about eight of Pedro Almodovar’s early movies, from 1980’s Pepi, Luci, Bom… through 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, to 1999’s Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother).

I could tell you a lot about the movie and it’s many wonderful devices of mirroring and foreshadowing and dualites, but you should see the movie for yourself, if you have not.

And if you aren’t totally gutted by the 18-minute mark, I would have to wonder what is wrong with you.

So the thing about a favorite movie that you have not seen in a long time–in this case, it’s been 22 years–is that the movie is the same, but you are not.

I saw this movie when I lived alone in Manhattan, my parents were alive, I had lovely friend, and I had two black cats. I was unhappily in the publishing industry.

Today, I live with my husband in New Jersey, my parents are now long gone, some of my lovely friends have also died (mostly female), and my cats are also long gone. But, I now have a masters in library science and I love doing research for a living and as a hobby.

Since 1999, I have done a lot more genealogy work, and DNA tests have helped me find the families of my birth father and birth mother. Genealogy and DNA has lead me to study even more women, and even more mothers.

Todo Sobre Mi Madre is a study of women, the women they are and the women they want to be, and also about men who become women. It is very difficult to watch this movie and not thing about your own mother, the other women in your life, and think about who they were, what they wanted, who they wanted to be and whether things worked out that way.

As a person who loves research and genealogy, in the time between 1999 and 2021, I have also studied genetic family members I will never get to know, from the birth mother brutally killed in an unsolved crime, to the wife of a great-great uncle who died in a Jewish old age home in Berlin in 1942, to a great-great-grandmother who, at the age of 78, wound up taking over the family business (the manufacture of Turkish cigarettes) in 1912 when her husband died–even though she had two sons right there who could have taken oven.

I am lucky to have some of my birth mother’s letters, and the great-great-aunt. So I have been able to get a peek into their lives and their minds.

What’s wonderful about Todo Sobre Mi Madre is how these women make a community for themselves, simply by being there and sometimes just listening. And what’s wonderful in Almodovar’s movies is that he often concentrates on female characters. This is in part thanks to the post-Franco era. Almodovar explained that in the Franco era, men were simply encouraged to be macho and not have feelings; consequently, women just seemed much more interesting to him.

And they will to you as well, and will serve to remind you to find what is interesting in the women around you.

Post a comment.