Review: Banderas gives moving performance in reflective 'Pain and Glory'

Banderas reunites with director Pedro Almodóvar in film that speaks to director's own story

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Antonio Banderas gives his best, most committed performance in years as a film director looking back over his life in "Pain and Glory," a typically rich, layered film from director Pedro Almodóvar. 

Banderas is Salvador Mallo, a one-time maverick filmmaker who is now facing debilitating health issues. The re-release of one of his films, "Sabor," causes him to reconnect with star Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia). 

Antonio Banderas in "Pain & Glory."

Salvador and Alberto had a falling out over the film due to creative differences and have not spoken in decades; make what you will over Banderas' and Almodóvar's own cold spell, which lasted 21 years, from 1990's "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" to 2011's "The Skin I Live In." 

Alberto introduces Salvador to heroin, which causes Salvador to revisit his childhood memories, from his relationship with his mother Jacinta (Penelope Cruz) to an early childhood crush and the first hints of his budding homosexuality.

As Almodóvar plays past and present in congruence, the two halves compliment each other and form a full picture of Salvador, emerging as a self-portrait of sorts in Almodóvar's house of mirrors. 

Banderas — also currently hamming it up in "The Laundromat" — gives a soulful, resonant performance, which is earning him talk for what would be his first Oscar nomination. It would be fitting.

But there's more to "Pain and Glory" than awards chatter. Almodóvar's films are passionate works, the director exploring his soul, his love of country and his affection for cinema. Now 70, he's looking back on a life lived both on and off screen, and "Pain and Glory" is a study in beauty and grace.


'Pain and Glory'


Rated R: for drug use, some graphic nudity and language

Running time: 113 minutes