The death by accident of a mother's much loved son compels her to go to Barcelona and inform the father, who doesn't even know of the boy's existence. Finding the father is not so easy and by going to Barcelona, the mother digs back into a world she had left behind in order to bring up her son. It is a sordid but colourful world with transvestite prostitutes, junkies, an AIDs riddled nun, divas, and the usual associates of one's past. Remember that this is Almodovar, not Ivory-Merchant. However, these people are not displayed as freaks, but portrayed sympathetically. Almodovar celebrates their lives. He does not pass judgement.
Like other Almodovar films, the complex story line shows the strains that pull apart and bring together relationships. The emotional lives of the characters are laid bare. While there may be melodrama, there is a strict avoidance of sentimentality. The acting is wonderful, especially Cecilia Roth, who for some reason reminds me of Hannah Gordon.
My only criticism is the use of coincidence. This is also a feature of other Almodovar's films; but here he stretches it a bit far. For instance, first the Cecilia Roth character steps in to take the part of an actress in a professional stage play, to great acclaim, and then when she leaves it, her transvestite friend, who as far as I know has never acted in his life, effortlessly takes over. This is a small criticism. "All About My Mother" is a splendid film by a great film maker. Without being a dreary feminist polemic, it is a celebration of women in all their roles: as mothers, as lovers, as carers; and to those who want to be women. Warmly recommended.