Missing Men

January 2022

A SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY of Almodóvar country would duly remark the profusion of single mothers and sisterly subcultures. The most obvious explanation for this phenomenon is the no less abundant population of bad men: fathers who rape, batter, walk out, or otherwise abdicate the paternal function, as psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott called it, of protecting maternity. In Parallel Mothers, Almodóvar’s latest film, Ana (Milena Smit), for instance, is pregnant with a child conceived in a sexual assault involving multiple men. Whoever sired her little Anita will not be coming forward, even if intimidated Ana or her scandalized parents had any wish for that outcome. Meanwhile, Ana’s parallel mother, Janis (Penélope Cruz), has long ago internalized the missing man as the founding principle of her independence. A forty-year-old photographer, Janis wants nothing from her daughter’s father,

— Anna Shechtman and D. A. Miller

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