Movie review of ‘Ma Ma’: Penélope Cruz plays a woman diagnosed with breast cancer in melodramatic film that feels inauthentic. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.
It’s hard to make a cancer melodrama sing, even when it includes a doctor who sings. Yes, Spanish filmmaker Julio Medem’s “Ma Ma,” starring Penélope Cruz as a woman coping with a diagnosis of breast cancer, goes there; the absurdly handsome doctor (Asier Etxeandia) not only croons a few ballads, but he falls in love with Cruz’s Magda to boot. Meanwhile, Magda is mysteriously drawn to Arturo (Luis Tosar), who’s coping with his own staggeringly high level of personal tragedy, and trying to keep things together for her young son Dani (Teo Planell).
Cruz, whose face makes its own beautiful music with the camera, gives a lovely performance, resisting the temptation to go over-the-top with all this drama. When she smiles, you experience an improbable, overwhelming sense that everything — including this movie — will be all right. But even melodrama needs to be grounded in something recognizable, and Cruz seems trapped in a film that never feels authentic. Eventually, the film muddles its way into a self-indulgent, overlong mess, complete with a flowerlike beating heart, a miraculous new life and a lot of soccer. Long before anyone in “Ma Ma” expires, the movie does.