Some artists make such a strong impression on me that I feel like I've seen more of their work than I actually have. Take director Pedro Almodóvar. Prior to Pain and Glory, I had seen three of his movies and liked them all. If you had asked me off the top of my head, I would have said I've seen a lot of his films, because I remember the ones I like. But I haven't seen that many. Or Antonio Banderas ... I've seen half a dozen of his films, but none where he was the star. I have seen a few more Penélope Cruz movies, and this is the third one I have seen that was directed by Almodóvar. Point is, they've all done work I've liked, yet I haven't really dug deep with any of them.
I loved Pain and Glory. I hesitate to say it's the best work of any of the three people I have mentioned, because I don't feel I know enough of their work. But Banderas certainly deserves his Best Actor Oscar nomination. He does a lot with a little here ... he is mostly subdued, but he communicates with the audience with his eyes, with the way he carries himself. Penélope Cruz is not a lead character here ... one happy result of Almodóvar using flashbacks is that Cruz plays Antonio's mother. I have found over the years that she is much better in Spanish movies than in English films. Meanwhile, Almodóvar's work here seems less outrageous than I remember from him. But he is 70 years old, and if Pain and Glory is autumnal, well, Almodóvar has earned it.
Pain and Glory is also nominated for the Best International Feature Oscar, where it is up against the best movie of 2019, Parasite.
Ultimately, I don't know that Pain and Glory quite lives up to the performance of Banderas. But he is so good, and the film is so quietly impressive, that the result is moving.