Ma ma (2015)

June 20th, 2016
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Julio Medem

Cast: Penelope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia, Teo Planell, Luis Tosar, Alex Brendemuhl;

111min | Drama | Spain/France.

Best known for his drama Lovers of the Arctic Circle, Spanish director Julio Medem has always built his films around great love and equally overwhelming loss. In Ma ma he manages to go over the top, even by his own hyper excessive standards.

Ma Ma is produced and driven forward by a passionate performance from Penelope Cruz who plays Magda, a teacher who loses her job in Madrid and her husband Raul (Brundemuhl). After being diagnosed with breast cancer by Julián (Etxeandia), her gynaecologist, she meets Arturo a Real Madrid scout, while watching her son Dani (Planell) play football. His daughter is killed in a car accident, and his wife is in a coma, shortly to die. Magda and Arturo are thrown together in the turmoil only for Magda’s cancer to resurface.

This is Cruz’s film and she carries Ma ma– just – by the force of her personality and acting skills but the outlandish narrative stretches the imagination often to breaking point, relieved only by occasional poetic interludes, which make up for the absurd plotlines. Julián has all the time in the world for Magda largely due to his own unhappy relationship which comes under pressure when he and his wife want to adopt Natasha, a little girl from Siberia. Magda’s life revolves around the image of a frail little girl in the arctic cold, calling her Natasha. And this girl accompanies Magda as a side reality during her last months; and she christens her unborn daughter Natasha.

Surprisingly, Magda seems to have no women friends (apart from a friendly nurse at the hospital), and is surrounded by three adoring men, including Raúl, who begs – in one of many cringe-worthy scenes – for her forgiveness. Cruz’s Magda sails through everything with great spirit, never losing her optimism. One has to admire her, but in spite of DoP’s Kiko de la Rica’s poetic images of Natasha, and his pristine close-ups of Cruz, Medem’s script often tends towards kitsch. The subject matter really deserved a more realistic, less grandiloquent approach. AS



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