‘Mama’s Girl’ is Anchored on an Insufferable Main Character
Though the sentiment is sweet, this coming-of-age film struggles to resonate
Mama’s Girl is about Abby (Sofia Andres), a young woman just a year out of college. The movie spends its opening moments establishing her relationship with her mother, Mina (Sylvia Sanchez). Mina is seemingly indefatigable in her support of her young daughter, no matter what kind of challenge Abby happens to be facing. And then, Mina dies. Abby soon finds herself struggling to keep her head above water as everything starts falling apart around her. But it turns out that her mother left her a package, and from beyond the grave, she gives Abby a series of challenges meant to guide her to a more fulfilling life.
The overall sentiment of this movie is sweet enough. No one would object to a loving tribute to mothers, a film that celebrates their selfless nobility and wisdom. But the film is anchored on the arc of what turns out to be a pretty insufferable character. Abby, as written, is so unbelievably helpless as a human being that she becomes a little tough to watch after a while. The whole story becomes about how little she actually learned from her mother while she was still alive, and how she ends up literally getting instructions to fix her own problems.
The film just spends too much time on Abby being wrong about everything. And isn’t a case of a character trying her best and just happening to fail. We don’t really get to see much effort from her to try and make things better. If anything, she seems to be actively trying to sabotage herself. The film paints this a complex: an inability to cope with failure. That’s an interesting idea, but the movie doesn’t have any real insight into it. The film seems to write it off as a generational quality, which comes off as weirdly condescending.
This is all tied up with an inert romance with her best friend from childhood. The movie has her at first going for a handsome rock star who is later revealed to be cheating on her. The movie then settles on her holding on to the possibility of getting back together with her rock star ex, in spite of him continually rejecting her. The film ends up portraying a willingness to make a scene as some sort of emotional triumph, which doesn’t quite feel right. Meanwhile, the real romantic plot crawls along, with another character thoroughly devoted to Abby in spite of her bad behavior. It just isn’t very interesting.
There is some merit in how the film is put together. It tries some quirky things, and occasionally attempts long, complicated takes filled with activity. But they don’t mask the core deficiencies of the movie. Sofia Andres does seem to be trying very hard, pouring her heart into this character. But the character just doesn’t deserve all that effort. Sylvia Sanchez is an appealing presence as Mina, but there really isn’t much to this character, either. She becomes defined by her unequivocal support for her daughter, and never really given the chance to show off a life beyond her care for her child.
Mama’s Girl is just too reductive. The relationship between mother and daughter is one bursting with complications, especially as the daughter enters adulthood and tries to define who she is. But the film doesn’t seem interested in who Abby is without her mother. She is a just a young person in need of guidance, unable to accomplish anything on her own. Rather than being a story of a young woman learning to appreciate what her mother did for her, it’s the story of a disaster of a young person who only learns to survive because her mother tells her how.
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.