So the cast of the first movie reassemble for another bash on that fabulous Greek island. And this time they’re bringing the past with them. We flash between the 1970s, with the excellent Lily James playing the young Donna, and the now, as the stories unfold and the songs come bouncing towards us. Bring on the Abba tunes, the singing, the dancing, the sunshine. And let the audience try their best to resist joining in!
Watching this feelgood extravaganza play out on the big screen proved to be quite a surprising experience. As song after song came cascading towards us – songs from my dim and distant past as a teenager – the emotion welled up inside of me. Watching the number above, When I Kissed the Teacher, I felt oddly thrilled and moved. It was extraordinary. Really it was. I was so glad I was sitting in the dark! I had heard that this might well be a film to make me laugh and cry – both at the same time at some moments – but I didn’t expect it to be quite so true. And I’m not a hundred percent sure why. Perhaps it’s the power of those finely-crafted pop songs, many of them happy and sad at the same time. I’m old enough to remember them the first time around, so there are memories attached. Who knew back in the swelter of 1976 that we’d still be jumping to these numbers now?
Emotion is a strange thing. Especially as I’m a man who feels he should maintain a stiff upper-lip. Tears are part of what it is to be human. Yet still, while laughing out loud is acceptable, contagious even, for many of us, (many of us men especially) to be seen crying is an embarrassment; and we risk looking weak, or even being put down for it. We readily laugh out loud, but crying is another matter altogether. However, these days I find myself moved quite often, sometimes when I speak in public, and l’m trying to learn to let it show. I can’t hide it anyway. It’s no use trying. (As was the case here when watching Mamma Mia 2.)
The writers of the Bible encourage us to ‘weep with those who weep’ (Romans 12 v 15), to share with others in their pain, as well as their joy. In one morning prayers, whilst I was working at lee Abbey, another community member from oversees spoke of their pain after hearing that their church had been bombed and people he knew had been injured. He cried. We gathered around him and cried too. Jesus did the same when one of his best friends died, he shared the pain of Lazarus’s sisters Mary and Martha, he didn’t hurry on to the feelgood miracle, he took time to first feel their pain and express it. His tears have gone down in history. For all men and women everywhere. The Bible is full of emotion-filled stories, I recently spoke on Jairus losing his daughter, just reading the Bible passage out loud was moving, this is a heart-rending story. When Peter denied knowing Jesus he collapsed in a heap, the emotion was too much, he fled sobbing from the scene. I wonder if he shed a quiet tear on the shore three days later, as he walked with Jesus and found himself forgiven. ‘I am worn out from sobbing. Every night tears drench my bed; my pillow is wet from weeping.’ The writer of Psalm 6 tells us unashamedly of the tears he sheds. Again, his emotion has gone down in history to help us.
If you are interested in someone else who was strangely moved by Mamma Mia 2, here’s revered critic Mark Kermode talking about what happened to him. All I can say is – I had that Mark Kermode experience. Oh and if you do go and see the movie, there is a very short final scene at the end of the credits. Just to let you know.