This is a movie review of Julio Medem’s Ma Ma.
Julio Medem’s Ma Ma is the story of recently unemployed teacher Magda (Penélope Cruz) whose college professor husband Raúl (Álex Brendemühl) left her to continue his affair with a student. She is now a single mother who cares for her son Dani (Teo Planell). To compound Magda’s miseries, she finds out she has breast cancer. However, all hope is not lost in Magda’s world. On the day that she finds out she has cancer, she also meets two remarkable men, her doctor Julián (Asier Etxeandia) and Real Madrid Youth football scout Arturo (Luis Tosar). Julián has his own share of family problem, and Arturo experiences a debilitating tragedy just after he meets Magda. Despite their personal hardships, they throw their unwavering support for Magda so she can perform one last act of selflessness.
As usual, Tosar is flawless. His Arturo is the picture of a devoted family man, then a distraught family man and finally, a contented family man, in different stages of the movie. Like in his previous roles, Tosar gives his all in every scene, with every muscle in his body acting at will. Although he is not the main star in this movie, he makes the most out of every scene he is in. He is fully immersed in his character as Arturo that no trace of Tosar the creep (Mientras Duermes) or Tosar the belegueared banker (El Desconocido) remains and his vulnerability is disarming. This is the first time I hear Tosar sing and his voice is decent. This is also the first time I see Tosar’s legs, and I have to say they are better than mine.
Speaking of first times, this is the first movie of Etxeandia that I watch, and I am 100% in love with him. 🙂 Granted that his character as the charming doctor with angelic singing voice and all the time in the world for Magda is a female fan magnet, I do not mind because I have XX chromosomes and he fully pulls me within the range of his magnetic field. When he smiles, it seems like the world is made of rainbows and unicorns. Okay, so maybe not. His character’s backstory about a wife and Natasha, a prospective adoptive daughter from Serbia, is a little flat for me. It is just convenient that the wife does not appear (or her voice is not heard, no photos even) in a single scene. But, his song numbers more than make up for this oversight.
Cruz’s Magda is the epitome of a perfect woman despite her failed marriage and mastectomy. Her breast cancer and the subsequent operation do not mar her physical beauty nor diminish the positive vibe of her personality. She is a little too upbeat for someone with stage 4 cancer and considering her last act of goodwill, she needs to be put on a pedestal. Cruz gives the otherwise faultless Magda the humanity that the character requires. Cruz is most effective in her solo and introspective scenes where she has fleeting doubts about her femininity.
Julio Medem’s Ma Ma essays the journey of a woman with breast cancer with correctly calibrated emotions. From start to finish, I feel Magda’s pain and applaud her triumphs. Her bold choices in life make her a heroine in my book. Yet, Magda’s real or imagined visions of Natasha and her photo are a little much and too often to ignore. Natasha’s “presence” in several of Magda’s emotional scenes ruins the overall mood. Also, the pumping heart (?) and the like are distracting. They make the movie cartoony.
Ma Ma’s story is uncomplicated and a little predictable, but the acting of Cruz, Tosar and Etxeandia keeps my eyes glued to the screen. Cruz and Tosar are riveting and Etxeandia is too pretty for words.