In 1997, Penélope Cruz kicked off her relationship with the director Pedro Almodóvar with a splash: The actor played a prostitute giving birth in the opening scene of Live Flesh. Their eighth film together, the upcoming Parallel Mothers (Madres Paralelas), finds Cruz again in labor, as the trailer that dropped on Monday immediately makes clear. (Although it’s relatively tame compared to the poster, which Instagram briefly took down earlier this month for featuring a lactating nipple.)
This time, Cruz’s character isn’t alone in suffering through her contractions: She stars as one of two single women who end up giving birth on the same day in the same hospital room. Both pregnancies are unexpected, and Janis (Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit) have opposite feelings about them. Ana is traumatized and scared, while Cruz’s Janis, who’s a generation older than the adolescent, is perfectly fine with hers; in fact, the official synopsis describes her as “exultant.”
The same can’t be said of her baby’s father Arturo (Israel Elejalde), who demands that Janis gets a paternity test. Janis, on the other hand, is convinced. “I only slept with Arturo,” she tells Rossy de Palma, another Almodóvar muse in the film. She replies by studying the baby’s appearance, observing that she’s “starting to look ethnic.” Apart from Ana becoming Janis’s housekeeper and babysitter, what happens next is something of a mystery. The circumstances of how they ended up in the same hospital in Madrid is “a secret, hiding the truth of the bond that connects these two, is a powerful story that tackles a deep trauma in Spanish history.”
“Parallel Mothers will be an intense drama, or so I hope,” Almodóvar said of the film he’s described as “the Don Quijote of motherhood” earlier this year. “As a storyteller, imperfect mothers inspire me most at this time.” The director has stayed busy throughout the pandemic, filming The Human Voice with Tilda Swinton and getting started on another, A Manual for Cleaning Women. (Cate Blanchett, who shared that she was trying to learn Spanish early on in quarantine, is rumored to star.) His latest hits theaters on Christmas Eve, after opening the Venice Film Festival in September and closing out the New York Film Festival in October.