Ten years after the release of the original, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again wonderfully takes us back to the same beautiful island and glorious sunshine. But perhaps it is the difference between the two films that is particularly powerful. The first was primarily themed around discovering one’s individual identity and freedom, whereas the sequel explores the enduring nature of relationships.
This is symbolised physically in the hotel which Sophie has renovated to fulfil the vision of her mother, Donna, who has recently died. We see in flash-back the young Donna singing ‘I Have a Dream’ as she wanders through the original ruins, intercut with shots of Sophie’s completed rooms.
It is symbolised relationally by the arrival of Sophie’s estranged grandmother, who has not forgotten her family, and who herself discovers a long-lost love at the hotel.
But it is a scene in the beautiful hill-top church which most powerfully takes this theme to a whole new level – physically, relationally, and spiritually. Even Mark Kermode, the hardened film-critic says of it ‘I wasn’t just crying, I was convulsing with tears.’ Here, the film reworks the lyrics of ABBA’s little-known ‘My Love, My Life’ to change it from a song about ending relationships to one about their enduring nature: ‘I can see it all so clearly, all I love so dearly… I know I don’t possess you, with all my heart God bless you … As one are we, in the now and beyond’.
In our culture, recently dominated by a focus on individuality and freedom, perhaps reflecting on this film, and its changes to the song’s lyrics, might cause us to think again about the enduring nature of relationships. And, perhaps we may then heed some of the other reworked words: ‘I see a road ahead, I never thought I would dare to tread’.