This is the story of the life, loves, wounds, grit, artistic genius, and death of the well-known Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, played by Salma Hayek. At the age of eighteen Kahlo was in a near-fatal bus accident that left her with lifelong injuries to her pelvis, spine, and uterus. (The film does not include the fact that Kahlo had suffered some physical disability since a case of polio at the age of six.)

The life Kahlo survived to live was artistically enormously productive and successful, but it also had more than the usual share of physical suffering, medical procedures, attempts to self-medicate, and accompanying emotional distress. The film covers these things, as well as what Kahlo called the second disaster in her life, her marriage to the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, played by Alfred Molina.


Kahlo's work is famous, among other things, for its representation of her own physical pain and suffering. (Several of her paintings are annotated in this database.) It is interesting that Kahlo seems not to have worked as an artist until she was confined to bed in a body cast following the bus accident. The film represents this connection between art and survival by showing the young bedridden Kahlo tentatively drawing her foot suspended above her mattress.

The film is full of images of Kahlo's turning pain into art, and we quickly sense that art is one of Kahlo's ways of living with her pain. Certainly her attitude helped, a combination of stoicism and willed happiness her friends admiringly referred to as alegria, or joy. "I'm used to pain," she declares at one point in the film, and she tells Leon Trotsky, "Everything hurts--but we can endure!" (Trotsky tells her that's what's good about her paintings.)

As Kahlo turned her life into art, director Taymor constantly brings Kahlo's art to life in the film, incorporating a number of the famous canvases either as themselves or as trompe-l'oeil settings for the film's action. The film, finally, is full of images of Kahlo's pain and medical problems: Kahlo in body casts and traction; reciting her list of medical problems to Rivera when he proposes marriage; bloody in bed after a miscarriage; painting from her wheelchair, and so on.

Kahlo's drive to conquer pain through art is perhaps most dramatically represented in the post-miscarriage scene in her hospital room in which she demands to have the miscarried fetus brought to her in a bottle so she can draw it. These many images of Kahlo's spirited resistance to her pain and disability make a moving spectacle that might be of particular interest to those with an interest in chronic pain and disability.


Based on Hayden Herrera's 1983 book, Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo. Nominated for many awards; winner of Oscars and other awards for music and visual effects.

Primary Source

Miramax Home Entertainment