Mamà, Mamà, Mamà (2020)
Director (and writer): Sol Berruezo Pichon-Riviere
Cast: Agustina Milstein, Chloé Cherchyk, Camila Zolezzi, Matilde Creimer Chiabrando, Siumara Castillo, Vera Fogwill, Jennifer Moule, Shirley Giménez, Ana Maria Monti, Florencia Gonzalez Rogriguez
A veil of sadness lies over the oppressively hot summer days. Cleo dives into daydreams with her cousins, the girls share secret signs and rituals. Flowing gently, in impressionistic images, the empty space that the death of Cleo’s sister has left in the family is poetically encircled. – IMDB
After doing an entire season of Movies and Tea Podcast on Sofia Coppola, the description comparing it to The Virgin Suicides is essentially what sold this Argentinian drama as one of my top must-see picks for this year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Running at a short 65 minutes, Mamà Mamà Mamà is definitely comparable to Sofia Coppola’s films. For one, it has the slice of life storyline about a young girl Cleo dealing with the loss of her younger sister Erin in the days that follow under the companionship of her cousins and the care of her aunt while observing at a distance her mother’s pain from this ordeal. The family of girls and women all sit together through rituals and little games and everyday things while all coping in their own way. Grief is different for everyone and yet as Cleo goes through her own changes while dealing with it along with the neglect from her mother who is grieving immensely on her own with the comfort of her own sister, she stews in her memories of her sister by herself while watching and participating as her cousins all go through their own fun summer hobbies without a care in the world while sharing secret rituals and daydreams.
The cinematography and execution of this film is what truly gives it that arthouse spin but also adding in a tone with a dull palette of colors dimmed and subtle. There’s a gloom over each scene whether its the quiet times when all the girls are sitting together doing their own thing or when Cleo’s mother has her crying outbursts with the different triggers. And yet, one of the deeper bits is when Cleo falls into her little memories of her sister and even reliving the moments of her death as the camera is off-centred with moving parts of her sister’s lifeless arms or her mother’s body swimming across the screen. It all pieces together what happens. At the same time, the movie starts off with a recording that is a conversation with Erin and a few of these recordings happens as Erin’s asked about death and fear where it seems like Cleo dreams up Erin in an imaginary world by herself while putting those scenes in between her memories of her time with her sister in each other’s companionship. These moments might seem mundane and yet it adds a lot of depth to what Cleo is going through in her own mind and perhaps the loneliness she feels despite having her cousins around even if they all have their way of caring for her and offering her another type of companionship.
There’s something really special about Mamà Mamà Mamà where these few days spent with this cast consisting solely of the ladies and girls of this family. Everyone knows what’s going on and yet every cousin at their different age has their own understanding of it and whether its the aunt or Cleo’s mom or the mother’s mom all end up in this space as the adults help each other grieve while the children have their own way of transitioning through it and yet its a little heartbreaking are the little moments when Cleo calls out to her unresponsive mother who is the one person that truly will understand each other’s loss the most and yet its also surprisingly sweet to see her cousins, each of them in the first scenes doing their own things but each slowly bonding with Cleo in their own way and helping her forget a little about what’s going on. Everything might be through the eyes of Cleo in this story and yet every character has their own space and purpose as they build their own connection.
What might seem like a grim story about grieving about the loss of a sister actually turns out to be a rather bittersweet experience. Mother and Cleo both are in their own sorrow and yet, everyone staying with them helps breath life back into this space. As a directorial debut for a young female director Sol Berruezo Pichon-Riviere, it does definitely feel like a piece delivers a lot of depth for the story that its trying to tell and an impressive bit of writing and execution and leaves her a director to look out for.