Antonio Banderas delivers what may be his greatest performance as a director dealing with physical and emotional pains in the semi-autobiographical film from Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Salvador (Banderas) is in retirement, struggling with migraines and back pain after major surgery, and unsure on whether or not he will continue in the art of filmmaking. He’s having bouts of nostalgia, leading him to be momentarily enthusiastic about an anniversary screening of one of his more beloved films. This brings him to the doorstep of Alberto (Asier Exteandia), an actor he’s been long feuding with. They happily discuss presenting the film together while, in a very impromptu sort of way, get Salvador started on a heroin habit. Flashbacks to Salvador’s childhood feature a fantastic Penelope Cruz as his mother, raising the precocious Salvador on little money in a cave-like dwelling. Banderas takes a reserved approach to the role that is unlike his usual role attack, and it’s refreshing. It’s also profound. Almodovar returns to form with this one, and it ends on an optimistic note that it could be the start of a new branch of his creativity.

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