Greetings again from the darkness. It’s usually easy to bash the movies that go heavy on sentimentality. It’s possible that even Steve Goodman would agree that this latest from writer/director Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia, 2000) could be the outline for a perfect country song: Mama’s husband leaves her for a younger woman/student; Mama loses her teaching job; Mama gets breast cancer; Mama’s new friend experiences a life tragedy; Mama and her new friend fall in love; Mama gets more bad news; Mama gets some good and unexpected news; things don’t end well for Mama. Mix in a train, a truck and prison, and there would be no argument.
Penelope Cruz produces and stars as Magda, the titular Ma Ma whose singing gynecologist breaks the news that her breast cancer will require chemotherapy followed by a mastectomy. What follows could be called a whirlwind of tragedies involving Magda, her son Dani (Teo Plannel) and the soccer scout Arturo (Luis Tosar) and the aforementioned doctor (Asier Etxeandia).
The fine performance of Penelope Cruz keeps the film moving through the first two acts, and she is just so darn likable that we find ourselves really pulling for her. The strength and spirit of this woman has a positive influence on all who come in contact with her. She has an odd impact on the doctor who is clearly attracted to her, and they share a most awkward and unnecessary running dialogue about a young Siberian girl that he and his wife are considering adopting.
The third act quite simply pushes the film over-the-top, as it goes beyond sentimentality and into pure Lifetime channel mush. The film is probably a bit too slick and stylized, given the real struggles of battling cancer; however, the point of female strength is not lost … though the “save the nipple” and “the soul doesn’t die” discussions deliver a few eye rolls.