“Ma Ma” Wants You to Weep
By Skip Sheffield
Penelope Cruz wants you to shed some tears.
Why else should she produce and star in “Ma Ma,” a four-hankie, melodramatic Spanish weeper from writer-director Julio Medem, about a blameless woman who is stricken with breast cancer?
That’s not the only woe suffered by recently laid-off teacher Magda (Cruz), short for Magdalena. Her husband, a college philosophy professor, has been messing around with one of his students and has taken off for the summer to be with her. Magda is left to care for her young son Dani (Teo Planell), who is feeling neglected and unloved by his dad.
When Magda is sent to the hospital by her doctor Julian (Asier Etxeandia) to get an MRI, she meets a distraught man in the waiting room. Arturo (Luis Tosar), whom she met earlier at a soccer game (he’s a scout), has just lost his young daughter, who was run over by a car and killed. His wife survived but is in critical condition in the hospital.
Misery loves company, it has been said. When Magda gets the bad news that the two lumps in her right breast are cancerous, she is shocked. When Julian tells her she must have a radical mastectomy to beat the cancer, she resists but finally gives in.
Penelope Cruz has lovely breasts. Somehow the makeup people very effectively simulate a mastectomy and the hair-loss ravages of chemotherapy. It is unsettling, but it underscores Magda’s anguish.
Simultaneously Arturo gets the bad news his wife is in a coma and will be taken off life support. These two wounded people and the boy left in the wake find a way to re-form a family unit. However, the bad news is not over. “Ma Ma” does not have a happy ending, but it is not hopeless either. This movie is a serious look at the travails of the millions of women whose lives are touched by breast cancer. If you don’t weep with Penelope, you are stoic indeed.