Following the explosive launch of the Broadway classic, Mamma Mia on the silver screens 10 years ago, comes Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, a film that is both prequel and sequel to the now cult classic original.
For the audience, this movie is a warm welcome back to the beautiful island of Kalokairi and the new and improved Hotel Bella Donna, where we catch up with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) the same way we first met her; singing to the sea as she contemplates sending three very important invitations. And even though some could argue that all the best ABBA tracks were used up in the first film, I can, on behalf of all ABBA’s ride or die fans, say that that is simply not the case.
Now while there is no question that the first movie was built on the band’s most well-known and upbeat hits, the song selection for Here We Go Again is equally iconic, but in a more ballad-centric way. And even though some songs from the original film make an appearance, this new soundtrack carries a completely different aesthetic; a musical nostalgia that can break hearts and set the soul on fire all in the same moment.
The story begins with Sophie’s mission to restore her mother’s hotel making it the ultimate holiday destination she knew Donna (Meryl Streep) always wanted it to be. With the help of her three fathers, Sam the architect (Pierce Brosnan), Bill the adventurer (Stellan Skarsgård), the self-proclaimed spontaneous Harry (Colin Firth) and her mother’s best friends Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski) Sophie sets in motion the re-opening of Hotel Bella Donna under the esteemed supervision of Señor Cienfuegos played by Andy Garcia, who, if I may be so bold as to say, has never looked so distinguished and handsome.
Throughout the film, as Sophie comes face to face with difficult challenges the movie jumps back to before it all began when Donna is first introduced to the island. Effortlessly and spectacularly portrayed by the effervescent Lily James, the audience is introduced to a young, carefree, and beautiful Donna Sheridan, a young woman so full of life, determined to make her mark on the world. And as young Donna comes face to face with the Sam, Bill and Harry of her past, the audience is also introduced to a side of her that is only hinted at in Mamma Mia. The adventures of Donna’s youth are beautiful to bear witness to and are so emotionally poignant and well executed that as an audience member there are moments when you would give anything to be her, and others, where your heart breaks for her.
With the entire original cast returning and some exceptional newcomers (the aforementioned Andy Garcia and the one and only Cher) the ensemble is sublime. However, it is the casting of young Donna, her friends (Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davis) and lovers (Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan and Hugh Skinner) that truly makes this film. Not only does this troupe of actors resemble the original cast in looks and manner, but they also have brought to life their origins, and explained why they are the way that they are as adults. For this, credit must go to director and screenwriter Ol Parker (writer of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), who has managed to successfully wrangle an extensive cast and a significant number of extras into a fun-filled, choreographed musical of colour and life-affirming joy.
I would also like to take a moment to say that firstly, Seyfried is a remarkable singer and the ease with which she performs her musical numbers is something to be applauded. Secondly, Cher is truly one of the most fabulous individuals that ever walked the face of this earth, and I can’t think of anything more ostentatiously wonderful than watching her sing Fernando as fireworks erupt behind her. Thirdly, Lily James is simply exquisite.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, is a movie that offers new generations a chance to connect with the essence of another, and for that, all we can say is “thank you for the music.”