and Arturo have the opposite of a meet-cute. She is in the hospital for breast
cancer treatment, while he has come to say goodbye to his soon to be late wife
(having already lost their daughter). Those are some intense experiences to
bond over, so you can’t really blame them for marrying so quickly.
Unfortunately, they will experience some rotten déjà vu halfway through Julio
Medem’s ma ma (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
you feel a lump during the given self-examination of your gender, do not put
off having it examined like Magda does. By the time Julián, her handsome gynecologist
with a seductive singing voice biopsies it, the cancer has advanced to a stage
requiring a mastectomy. Obviously, Magda is concerned, but she ratchets up her
resolve, arranging family to care for her oblivious son Dani and somewhat
passive aggressively banishing her ex-husband Raúl from her life. In a case of better
late than never, he deeply regrets not being there for her. When he sets about
to make amends, it might just be the first miracle attributable to Saint Magda.
Arturo’s wife and daughter are still dead (from a car crash he was not a party
to), but Magda appears to make a complete recovery. Arturo the professional football
scout also gets on smashingly with Dani, the talented junior player. However, Magda
somehow manages to delay her follow-up exams to the point beyond all reasonable
hope. Yet, despite her dreary diagnosis, Magda will keep her recent pregnancy.
Their daughter will be her legacy. Besides, as their close family friend, Julián
the singing gynecologist will help Arturo and Dani raise her.
so basically ma ma is the most
depressing reboot of Three Men and a Baby
ever (even the reformed Raúl promises to chip in, making it a veritable
barbershop quartet). Yet, for all its naked manipulations, it is impossible to
dismiss the film, because it represents such a distinctive vision. It is sort
of like a Paolo Sorrentino film on Benzedrine and chorizo. To describe it as an
operatic ode to motherhood would be an understatement. It is secular
hagiography at its boldest. Plus, there is bizarre symbolism of the Siberian
waif (who Julián supposedly was unable to adopt) strolling through the film
like a silent Greek chorus.
no, subtly is not Medem’s thing. To give her credit, Penelope Cruz antes up at
every call. She plays Magda with such ferocious dignity it downright hurts to
watch. Basically, the usually forceful Luis Tosar is emasculated by her shadow.
This is obviously Medem’s Madonna story, so Arturo, the poor man’s Joseph is
just an afterthought.
Realism is probably not much of a priority
either. Nobody is claiming to be a doctor here, but we imagine most women with
stage three cancer who are also eight months pregnant would not be so keen to
frolic on the beach—but hey, more power to Magda. Medem will absolutely beat us
over the head with her courage and determination, but at least he does it with
style, so it is hard to resent him for it. This is not just a drippy
tearjerker, but rather an auteurist re-invention of melodrama. Recommended for
those who find Pedro Almodovar too upbeat and Terrence Malick too understated, ma ma opens this Friday (5/20) in New
York, at the Landmark Sunshine.
Labels: Julio Medem, Penelope Cruz, Spanish Cinema