All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre)
Manuela (Cecelia Roth) is a nurse, working at a hospital as a transplant coordinator, and training doctors to deal with families of potential organ donors. When her son is struck by a car while seeking an autograph from a famous actress (Marisa Paredes), she travels to Barcelona to find her son's father, whom she left while she was pregnant. The women that she encounters and bonds with on her search all survive through artifice: Agrado (Antonio San Juan), a transvestite prostitute who says when asked if her Channel suit is real "All I have that's real are my feelings and these pints of silicone that weigh a ton"; Sister Rosa (Penelope Cruz), a nun who works with battered prostitutes and is hiding her pregnancy from her mother; Praised as actress Huma Rojo, a stage name meaning "Red Smoke" and inspired by Bette Davis's ever-present cigarette; and Huma's lover Nina (Candela Pena) who is hiding a heroin addiction. Even Sister Rose's mother lives a life of pretense, catering to the fantasies of her husband who is addled by Alzheimer's. The hub around which all of this revolves is, oddly enough, Tennessee William's play A Streetcar Named Desire itself a play about a woman who survives by using artifice and deception. Manuela met Esteban's father while doing an amateur version of the play, and it is after a performance of Streetcar that Esteban is killed. Huma and Nina play Blanche and Stella, respectively, and when Nina is too dope-sick to go on one night, Manuela fills in (which leads to Nina angrily accusing Manuela of deliberately sabotaging her, a la All About Eve). And like Streetcar, All About My Mother examines the lengths women will go to for their families even extended, chosen families like the one Manuela has formed with Rosa, Agrado, Huma and Nina. Almodovar dedicates the film to Bette Davis, Gena Rowlands, Romy Schneider and "to all actresses who play actresses." All About My Mother is a love letter to women and actresses, and a compelling exploration of the ways in which they are one and the same.