This post contains spoilers for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, out July 20.
Some 15 minutes into the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the sequel to the 2008 movie musical, Sky (Dominic Cooper), of all people, has the honor of letting viewers know what happened to Donna (Meryl Streep):
She died. A year ago.
Let that sink in for a moment.
The news is revealed during an awkward phone fight between Sky and Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who are (briefly) doing long distance marriage because Sky needs to spend six weeks in New York City “learning the hotel business,” whatever that means. Sophie, meanwhile, is back in Greece, days away from opening The Hotel Bella Donna, named after her late mother.
Throughout the film, which clocks in at a joyful 114 minutes, Donna’s death is mentioned here and there. Don’t say her name in front of Rosie (Julie Walters) or she’ll immediately cry (“your mother was the bravest person”). Talk about her with Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and he’ll say things like, she was “our dancing queen,” just in case you forgot that you were watching a movie musical featuring ABBA songs. And let’s not even get started with Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), who shows an ounce of emotion at the thought of Donna being gone, just as the movie’s about the come to a close.
Unlike the characters who cry about Donna in the film, no one should lose sleep over not seeing Meryl, because you actually do see her in the flesh before the movie wraps.
Her big scene happens when Sophie’s baby (yes, she has a baby) gets baptized at the same church on top of the hill. No one else can see ghost Donna except Sophie, and together they sing ABBA’s “My Love, My Life” as flashbacks of Sophie’s own baptism hit the screen. Sophie and the ghost of her mother hold hands before the latter makes her exit, closes the church doors… and makes a quick costume change.
Like the first film, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ends on a high note: a musical number involving the entire cast, which includes the present day and younger versions of all the main characters, Cher (who plays Donna’s mother), and Andy Garcia (who plays Cher’s on-screen lover, Fernando, yes, Fernando).
Everyone sings “Super Trouper” while wearing or holding any of the following: big hair, bell bottoms, faux fur coats, crystal studded microphones. For a brief moment, you forget that Donna will never come back to meet her grandson, but somewhere, she’s having the time of her life, being the best dancing queen in the world.
And that is something to sing about.
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