Ma Ma (2015)

  • Time: 111 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Julio Medem
  • Cast: Penélope Cruz, Luis Tosar, Asier Etxeandia


In the aftermath of a tragedy a woman, Magda, reacts with a surge of newfound life that engulfs her circle of family and friends.

One comment

  • If nothing else, Julio Medem’s uneven melodrama Ma ma is shameless in its mission to jerk the tears and pull at the heartstrings. Within the first ten minutes, Medem reveals that his heroine Magda (Penélope Cruz) is unemployed, been left by her husband who would rather spend the summer with one of his students, and diagnosed with breast cancer. The title may refer to the latter, which is “cáncer de mama” in Spanish, but it also encompasses the state of motherhood and the indefatigable spirit of womanhood.

    Indeed, there’s something of the immaculate conception about Magda’s cancer, which gestates from out of nowhere and beatifies her. Cruz is bathed in and almost always surrounded by milky whiteness – if you are expecting to see the horrors of cancer eroding so vibrant a spirit, this is not the film for you. Cancer has never seemed more like a contrivance, which is one of the many problems that plague Medem’s film. To be fair, it’s a contrivance that is used to express a generous message about family and friendship but the script’s manipulations are such that it’s an effort to fully embrace the film.

    Almost immediately after Magda receives her diagnosis from her gynecologist Julian (Asier Etxeandia), she encounters Arturo (Luis Tosar) at her son Dani’s (Teo Planell) soccer game. Arturo happens to be a soccer scout; he’s impressed with Dani’s skills and believes the young boy could have a successful pro career. “I needed some good news today,” Magda smiles, but the moment is short-lived. Arturo discovers that his wife and daughter were in an accident – his daughter is dead, his wife is in critical condition. The two strangers soon become each other’s emotional support as Magda undergoes her chemotherapy at the public hospital (she keeps both her husband and son in the dark about her diagnosis) and then goes to visit Arturo in the private hospital as he prays for his wife to awaken from her coma.

    The film momentarily flares into intrigue when Dani, now aware of his mother’s condition and witnessing her insert a prosthetic breast after her mastectomy, becomes distant and withdrawn. Medem, however, is more interested in pursuing other narrative threads, such as the one involving a Siberian orphan girl that dominates Magda’s visions and comes to symbolise the hope of new life. Then Julian breaks out into song and one wonders if Medem has lost the plot or ever truly had a plot to lose.

    Cruz is arguably the best thing about the film but, as excellent as she is, she doesn’t do anything here that she didn’t already do better and with more depth in Volver and Don’t Move. Disappointing.

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