fri 18/09/2020

DVD: Ma Ma | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Ma Ma

DVD: Ma Ma

Penélope Cruz controls a cancer melodrama

Blue mood: Magda (Penélope Cruz) considers her fate

Penélope Cruz has rarely been better, though her director Julio Medem has seldom been worse. As Magda, she’s an earthy everywoman, whether dealing with an errant husband, protecting her son Dani, or treating breast cancer with wry stoicism.

Penélope Cruz has rarely been better, though her director Julio Medem has seldom been worse. As Magda, she’s an earthy everywoman, whether dealing with an errant husband, protecting her son Dani, or treating breast cancer with wry stoicism. It perhaps helps that her doctor, Julian (Asier Etxeandia), is dishy, sensitive and, like football scout Arturo (Luis Tosar) – a chance acquaintance undergoing his own tragedies who becomes her lover – enraptured by her. Magda becomes a centrifugal force around which these men spin, even as the lurking cancer’s blows become more grievous, and fright and sadness for Dani crack her indomitable shell. This a great role for Cruz, who also produced.

Medem rewrote an old script for her, but he hardly seems the same director who in the likes of The Red Squirrel, Tierra and Sex and Lucia hallucinated meaning from Spanish sex and soil. He was a sensual visionary as wonderful as Almodóvar in the 1990s, working initially with his muse Emma Suárez (whom Almodóvar has returned to centre-stage with Julieta). Time and space bent in Medem narratives where the fault, if any, was obliqueness. Magda is the most straightforward of his revered women, even if her stubborn willpower verges on the supernatural. The ripe, old-fashioned melodrama of her life meanwhile teeters towards farce, not least when Dr. Julian breaks into cheesy Spanish pop songs.

Cancer’s grimness is neither ignored nor indulged, signifying tragedy but with its physical reality kept at a distance. Ma Ma is weirder than the weepies Hollywood has made from the disease, and sketches in some social background, at a time of Spanish football success and economic collapse. If you let yourself be swept along by Cruz, its big-hearted optimism is sometimes very moving. It’s also increasingly ridiculous, as if Medem has spliced Douglas Sirk with Mamma Mia! 

 The ripe, old-fashioned melodrama of Magda's life teeters towards farce

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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