TL;DR: Despite its fascinating structure, Mama’s Girl is deeply flawed, but the mother-daughter duo at its core makes up for it.
It’s so frustrating to watch a movie like Mama’s Girl. Its heart is in the right place, & has all the ingredients of an unforgettable movie that you can’t help but root for it to pull it off. However, the movie’s faults are hard to ignore, nearly overwhelming whatever merits it has in the first place.
Abby (Sofia Andres) is college graduate with low self-esteem, adrift about her place in the world & easily backs down when life gets rough. She has a close bond with her mother Mina (Sylvia Sanchez), a single mother who raised Abby on her own while cooking & managing an Italian restaurant called Mama Mina with her best friend Neila (Arlene Muhlach). Mina is always there to support & protect Abby at all costs, even if Abby pushes her away at times. Meanwhile, Neila’s son Nico (Diego Loyzaga) is Abby’s best friend who hides his true feelings for her. Unfortunately, he gets upstaged by Zak (Jameson Blake), the singer of a famous band Abby is a huge fan of. Everything seems normal, but it turns out Mina is trying to hide her ovarian cancer from Abby until it couldn’t be shrugged off. She dies, leaving Abby even more depressed than usual, but with the help of her mother’s packages she prepared for Abby before her death, she might just find her calling in this world.
But the movie doesn’t tell this story in a straightforward manner. It kills off Mina early in the film & jumps into the future, where Abby is still reeling from her mother’s death, the end of her relationship with Zak due to his philandering, & the dire straits Mama Mina is in thanks to the loss of her mother’s cooking. It jumps back & forth from the past & present to fill in the gaps.
It’s an audacious gambit that unfortunately doesn’t work. It is executed sloppily, at times turning the movie into a series of dramatic moments without building up to it. It also pushes Abby’s worsening dour outlook into the spotlight, without providing new insights about her character or her mother. It also flattens Abby’s rocky relationship with Zak into hacky territory, since it jumps far too ahead without giving us reasons to care. And since the movie pits Abby’s lingering feelings for Zak & her blossoming feelings for Nico as the basis of a love triangle, it removes any tension that would’ve served as one of the movie’s main conflicts. There’s also a subplot involving Abby’s grandmother that pops up out of nowhere in the climax. The messy execution of the film’s novel narrative makes it harder for its emotional moments to land.
Thankfully, the movie redeems itself through the tender relationship between Abby & Mina. It is sweet & infectious, as the movie reveals the love & affection they have for each other, even if they get on each other’s nerves. It’s also anchored with great performances from the main duo. Sylvia Sanchez showing Mina’s sweetness, understanding, & strength amidst all her problems. Sofia Andres gets bogged down by Abby’s repetitive downward spiral & still makes it count, but she shines when Abby shares touching moments with Mina. Even she livens up her Mina’s tired romantic subplot, especially since her chemistry with Diego Loyzaga is electric. There are also some creative shots & energetic long takes that liven up the movie.
But it just highlights how close the movie was in making something special. Mama’s Girl is deeply flawed, but it’s clearly trying to do something different & do justice to its heartwarming material. While it failed, its ambition, sincerity & commitment to showing the ups & downs of Abby & Mina, even after death, comes through that it’s easy to overlook its flaws. It may not be enough to make a great movie, but it can make for a decent one.