As the owner of an Amazon prime account I have access to many free films, but on top of these I have purchased seven films which tell a lot about me: firstly there’s the three gritty, tense Iranian dramas, which show that I study Persian. Then the three Richard Curtis/Hugh Grant films, which show that I have been dumped in the last couple of years and that I’m a massive softy. And finally there’s the crowning glory, the one I watch most, after perhaps Four Weddings, Mamma Mia, which shows that I have great taste. This is backed up by the fact that this summer I only went to the cinema three times, once to see Incredibles Two with my brother, and then twice to see Mamma Mia! Here we go again – the most anticipated film of the century for me and every woman named Sandra.
This film, directed by Ol Parker, and starring Lily James and Amanda Seyfried, is everything that a carefree summer flick ought to be. It’s filled with familiar faces, on top of a brace of gorgeous (and relatively unknown) young actors playing the twenty-something-year-old versions of the characters from the previous film. The deliciously sun drenched scenes made us long to jet off to the med and get pregnant by three men ourselves. And of course it was replete with songs that my Gran and I could not resist humming along to in the cinema; some of the dirtiest bangers from ABBA’s brilliant back catalogue.
The stand out performance came from Lily James as the young Donna Sheridan, who we met in the first film, then incarnated by the marvellous Meryl Streep. She captures every emotion young Donna goes through; from resigned disappointment in her mother, to unsurprised disappointment in young Harry’s debut sexual performance; from head over heels infatuation with the other two leading men, to all consuming love for her new born daughter. The parallel plot of the two births on the island in two different eras did admittedly feel slightly forced, but nonetheless was incredibly touching. Despite being filled with uber-cheesy dance numbers and near-slapstick comedy, the emotional heart of this film never stops beating.
I have mentioned that parts of the film feel forced. There is a scene when a storm rages on the island, destroying all that was prepared for the grand reopening of the hotel. Amanda Seyfried rushes down to the quay to try and save the welcome decorations, and is then joined by Pierce Brosnan, who takes control by issuing commands to tighten some ropes which Amanda Seyfried then sort of pretends to do. The real function of the scene is to show Brosnan’s character getting over the loss of his soulmate Donna Sheridan and becoming involved again in the opening event, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work. His action hero days are far behind him I fear, and distanced from him further by his linen clothing and finger-gun dance moves, so he doesn’t carry the scene as much as the slightly sub par set and weather effects required him to.
Speaking of costume, some characters were continually perfectly dressed. Lily James’ outfits were always gorgeous, if a slightly urban outfitters take on seventies dress. Amanda Seyfried however was done dirty by whoever decided that throughout the film she should wear the loudest poncho the world has ever seen. Her character Sophie is clearly something of an aesthete, seen at one moment casually directing someone to move a sign ever so slightly to the left to have it perfect – yet why would someone with such a good eye ever wear something that looked like it was one of the weird bathmats in my flat?
The truly critical viewer may have noticed that the dates and ages in this film just do not add up. The random appearance by Cher as Donna’s mysterious mother at the end of the film is of course brilliant and suitably cheesy, but I think her character would have to be about 86 for any of it to make sense.
Yet that is the best thing about this film. It doesn’t have to make sense. It serves to tell the romantic, sexy story of Donna Sheridan and her three men. It exists to make you tap your foot, and laugh, get a bit weepy, and make you think about your family. If for some reason you decide to think of it, critically, as failing to be a masterpiece, then you have entirely misunderstood Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. This film is a big cheesy joy and the only reason you could possibly have to not go and see it is that you simply don’t like enjoying yourself.