Ma ma



Whether or not this film deserves the fourth star in my rating depends on the viewer - as my review explains.


Ma ma



Julio Medem, the writer and director here, made his name with Vacas in 1992 but we have heard less and less of him in recent years. Returning with ma ma he favours much intercutting, often of the kind that plays tricks with time by going back and forth to intertwine a scene with the one that follows on from it. That apart, however, this is a movie that aims at popular appeal despite the fact that central to it is the subject of breast cancer. The film’s commercial prospects are undoubtedly helped by the fact that its star (and co-producer indeed) is Penélope Cruz.

Cruz plays Magda the heroine of what Medem himself has described as a two-part story, a fact echoed in the duplication within the title. At the outset Magda learns from a sympathetic gynaecologist (Aser Etxeandia) that she has cancer that is treatable although she will lose a breast. The courage of the woman in that situation is central to the film’s first part, but it is then followed by the revelation that Magda has unexpectedly suffered a relapse and has only a short time to live. She hopes that this will be long enough for her to get to see the child that she is expecting having become pregnant following her husband's desertion of her by a new man in her life, the widower Arturo (Luis Tosar).

There is never any doubt about Medem’s aims here. He has set out to tackle tragic subject matter but in a way that will always manage to find an up-side. Whether it is Arturo coming into Magda’s life so conveniently or the ideal relationship that exists between Magda and her young son, Dani (Teo Planell), one feels that Medem’s treatment is embracing elements usually found in soap opera. He has in fact stated that he wanted to avoid ma ma becoming a sentimental tear-jerker, but by emphasising everything in the tale that is positive and playing down the pain he cannot but fail in his aim.

But, if critics cannot but be aware of this popularisation (an awareness inevitably increased when Medem features the song Vivir performed by the gynaecologist), the fact is that ma ma is very well acted, especially by Cruz, and Medem, having opted for this particular approach, adopts it consistently throughout. Furthermore, the audience aimed at, including those suffering from cancer themselves, may find its optimism welcome and even helpful. So if you want serious art you can remove that fourth star, but if the film’s chosen level suits you, you will certainly want it to remain. 




Cast: Pénelope Cruz, Luis Tosar, Asier Etxeandia, Teo Planell, Silvia Abascal, Alex Brendemühl, Anna Jiménez.

Dir Julio Medem, Pro Penélope Cruz, Julio Medem and Álvaro Longoria, Screenplay Julio Medem, Ph Kiko de La Rica, Art Dir Montse Sanz, Ed Julio Medem and Iván Aledo, Music Alberto Iglesias, Costumes Carlos Díez.

Morena Films/Mare Nostrum Productions-Metrodome Distribution Ltd.
111 mins. Spain/France. 2015. Rel: 24 June 2016. Cert. 12A