I really enjoyed “Mama Mia”, the Broadway musical, the story (as I recall) of an enterprising mother who ran an inn on a Greek island, and whose daughter was about to be married. She wanted to make sure her daughter’s father came to the wedding, but she really never knew who the father was. There were three possibilities, living on other sides of the world, who were possibilities. They were all invited. They all came. And everyone had fun. (How could they not, since everything they did was accompanied by ABBA songs?)
Last night we watched a 2006 Danish film, “After the Wedding”, on the recommendation of a friend. The fact is that the film was very well reviewed, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. While the premise was not quite the same as that of “Mama Mia”, there were similarities. A wealthy Danish businessman has a fatal illness, which he keeps to himself. He is married, has two children of his own, and his wife has an older daughter from a previous relationship. This girl, Anna, does not know who her father was. But Jorgen, her step father, does. Jacob, the father, his wife’s ex-flame and also a Dane, runs an orphanage for poor children in a poor community in India. Jorgen finds out where Jacob is, and invites him to Denmark until the pretense that he is looking for worthwhile causes to donate considerable amounts of money to, and this orphanage has been recommended to him. Jacob travels to Denmark, meets Jorgen, learns that Jorgen’s daughter is about to be married, is invited to the wedding, discovers that Jorgen’s wife is his old girl friend, and puts two and two together, realizing he is the father of the bride.
So far, OK, not a bad plot line. But where “Mama Mia” takes uncertain parenthood and turns it into an uplifting farce, “After the Wedding” has its dour and volatile characters embroiled in one or another awful situation, bringing the viewer down, down, down. At least that was our reaction.
So if a friend ever suggests you see “After the Wedding”, take my advice. Watch “Mama Mia”.