I know! We had an outing. Nurse Stabby-Fingers had a rage at us for being miserable a week ago, so we blackmailed her into taking us all to the cinema. Women and men demanded the trip in equal measure, many of us embarrassing parental fans of Abba back in the day, still fond of the emotional high from the Mama Mia! stage musical and the first film from ten years ago. So we all limped our ways into the care home bus, and took up residence in the middle of the cinema to bask in the sunny uplands and tangible, sensitive sadness of Mama Mia! Here We Go Again.
And, bloody hell, it was worth it. We loved the film from start to finish. There was more than the usual tapping of feet, stretching of stroke socks and – oh yes – singing. For the great and the wheezy had the cinema to themselves and we let rip. The joy of it!
The film is back on the sunny island of the first film, Meryl Streep‘s Donna tangibly dead, and Amanda Seyfried‘s Sophie missing both her mum and Sky (Dominic Cooper), the flinchingly named husband from the first film. Sophie is opening the hotel that was her mother’s dream, so is a combination of blue-eyed, Grecian-sunned beautiful and, well, tunefully sad. So far so familiar.
But things get fresh and interesting as we bounce into one of many flashbacks: it’s last day in school and Young Donna (the energetic and wonderful…with the occasional Streep mannerisms…Lily James) sings When I Kissed the Teacher and takes the whole school for a musical bike ride through the Cotswolds before jumping off a narrowboat. She is joined by young versions of Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn pitch perfect and flat of affect to channel Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Alexa Davies catching the Julie Walters beautifully) and the fun begins. They have dreams. Well, Donna mostly – and she wants to travel. So off she goes.
You’ll know what happens from the first film, but it doesn’t interfere with the youthful, fun, sexy energy that runs through Young Donna’s encounters with the three boys who will become Sophie’s triumvirate of Dads. I’ll not give you too much more, given the film is still in the cinemas and I think you should really quit reading this and go see the film. But there’s a mostly-successful rendition of Waterloo, and a mostly-successful Hugh Skinner as a young Colin Firth. And there’s a boat trip out to the island with the help of Josh Dylan and his well-filmed eyes as young Stellan Skarsgård. And then some moments of romance, with a scared horse, and Jeremy Irvine as the young Pierce Brosnan.
And Donna – managing to keep us on her side through brightness, singing and sweetness of her dreams – slowly creates the confusions of the first film. Mad Maud agreed with Donna’s life experiences, explaining in way too much detail why she’d bed them all – young and old. Quite made me regret my staid youth…but then no-one ever really pursued me.
Hmmmm. What were we talking about?
You’re wondering about the performances? No need to worry. As before, the singing, the dancing and the story belong to the women. And this makes the film feel joyous and modern – and shows up the last decade of film for the female-led drought that it was. Lily James wins the past, Amanda Seyfried owns the present. That young and old versions of Rosie and Tanya give us comedy and tears makes for a warmly emotional set-up. And then….right at the end, as very well publicised…up pops Grandma, Cher. And the single funniest, most glorious version of Fernando I have ever heard. Huzzah to Andy Garcia for waiting for his moment; stunned honours to Cher for driving it home with power and a dry wink to the audience. Family stories should be about every generation, and, hurrah, Mama Mia! plays out like the dream version of Summer Hours / L’heure d’été (2008). Everyone gets their moment in the tune.
I said we sang along. Old Jack and his fellow inmates also oohed, aaahed, laughed out loud and (I spy Richard Curtis in the credits) wept openly as the music, its themes, and the story of a grieving girl set on honouring the memory and dreams of her mum played out with deft, sunny skill. Quite right too.
And there’s Omid Djalili in a sequence of glorious cameos.
And another singalong ending.
Still here? Get out and watch Mama Mia! Here We Go Again. You’ll love it.
It’s better than the first one.