The Formation of Almodóvar’s Queer Family

The image of the queer family that Almadóvar presents in All About My Mother parallels the “transnational” family also present in the film. This is a family that isn’t defined by the borders of biology, but is instead self-chosen leading (it seems) to some deeper intimacy. Though Agrado, Huma, Rosa and Manuela have no blood ties, each of them becomes for the others a strong source of emotional support. The movie seems to go further with this argument, showing that having a similar race, gender identity, sexual preference, social class, or religion also don’t constitute requirements for the formation of the queer family.

In trying to come up with some understanding of this family, I think it’ll be helpful to look at the character who is most blatantly denied access to it: Nina. Huma’s explanation that she’s “hooked on” Nina sums up the attitude that the four women have towards Nina and her lifestyle. I think Nina’s drug use, which leads to her general irresponsibility, represents her solipsistic attitude. Unlike the queer family of women, Nina has little to no interest in the trials and emotions of others. Instead, she sees the four women in terms of their ability to serve her. Excluding the way she treats Huma, the most obvious example of Nina’s self-interest was her attempt to seduce Agrado, seeing her as a sort of sexual novelty for her to explore.

It seems like it’s this self-absorption that shuts Nina out of the queer family, which might show that it’s some combination of love, compassion and trust that brings this group together. It sounds a bit saccharine and cliché, but I think these traits are present in the interactions between the four women. I find the best example of this to be the scene where they have ice cream and champagne, in which there were at least three moments of tension that threatened to upset the entire family. First, Rosa’s confession to Huma that Manuela had called her “mixed up” as a person; second, Huma returning from the bathroom to hear Agrado’s vague gossip about her; and third, Agrado’s implied statement to Huma that Manuela had lied to her about being sisters with Rosa. All of these moments in this scene build an immediate tension for the viewer, who is afraid that these scenes will result in some dramatic fight between the women. Each time, however, the women act as if nothing has happened and all potential hostility dissipates. Thus it seems like the most important factor in Almadóvar’s version of the queer family is that the members of this family understand that there is no competition or hostility between the members of this family. Instead, it’s a community that’s interested in genuinely supporting its members.

– er

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