‘Parallel Mothers’ Breakout Star Milena Smit Talks Working on Pedro Almodóvar’s Latest

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The film tackles the issue of the Spanish Civil War’s mass graves. How do you think that subplot fits into the main plot?

I think it’s very interesting how these two plots are mingled in the film, because it’s very well explained. Young people have [seen] a lot of misinformation about what really happened, so I think it’s a good lesson for our generation. There’s one special moment, in a conversation I have with Penélope, when the two plots intersect. That’s when there is a real clash of reality. That is why the film also talks about empathy—through those crossing plots, it shows the importance of empathizing from both sides, and that there is still a lot to fight for.

We are used to seeing a more idealized vision of motherhood on screen, but the mothers we see in the film are not role models. How do you feel about these imperfect mothers?

We are very used to seeing politically correct portraits, and I think the reality is different. We all make mistakes, make bad decisions, or find ourselves in moments when we don’t know how to act because we have never experienced that situation before. There is no single model of behavior, of how to be a mother or how to deal with trauma. That’s why I think Pedro has this wonderful ability to reflect something true, and that’s something that I’m also very interested in: I’m interested in seeing a real story, something that could also happen to me. The characters in the film all make decisions from a place where I see myself and say, “I would do the same thing.”

Ana has an ease and an innocence which make it impossible not to empathize with her. How did you work on that aspect of the character?

It also happens to me—I see her and I disconnect from myself. When I see her, I still connect with that tenderness and that sorrow at the same time. I remember that when I was filming, I also felt very connected to that innocence that I had hidden inside me, which I had denied for a long time because of my personal life and because I needed to adopt a more adult role. Suddenly, to regain that and find a sweeter, purer, and lighter side of me was very beautiful, and eventually I ended up behaving just like Ana in my day-to-day life. Furthermore, the process of building the character with Pedro and Penélope was incredible. We spent many months rehearsing together and looking for the way she would speak, the language she would use… Sometimes we had written lines and I would say to Pedro, “I think she would say it like this,” and he would accept it and it was really fun. Being in her shoes was also very healing, even though her story was very traumatic and very hard at times. But I was surrounded by the best hands—the team, Pedro, and all my colleagues.

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