I love Abba’s greatest hits. With gorgeous harmonies and irresistible melodies, they are perfect little gems of pop music. They were also enough to sustain a hugely feelgood movie (and I don’t use the adjective as a snide pejorative) in 2008, but could the songs left over do the same again, I wondered? The problem has been solved by simply recycling the classics and supplementing them with a few neglected but not unworthy ‘B-sides’. Richard Curtis is prominently listed among the writers, so you know you are in for a big dollop of cheesecake, but you can also rely on being drawn into a carefully crafted, cleverly balanced script. The story is split between Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) establishing her hotel on the Greek island where we left off last time, and the amorous adventures of her mother as a young woman (Lily James) on her way to that same island in 1979. An opening party is being prepared at which Sophie’s three possible dads and the girls with whom she first partied in Greece will be reunited, but a pall is cast over the event when she splits up with her boyfriend Sky (Dominic Cooper). Cue One Of Us, a song that, though unfamiliar to me, fitted the moment like a glove. Context counts for everything in musicals and the Benny Andersson/Björn Ulvaeus compositions are slotted in as precise accompaniments to the mood of the scene – even Cher singing Fernando at the end works (can you see her face move? I couldn’t). Because it is all about mother and daughter, the blokes are relegated to support status, but Pierce Brosnan is easily believable as the father who comforts Sophie when she needs a hug. For all its bounciness and effervescence, however, its joyous choreography and candy-coloured cinematography, it felt to me that the film was underpinned by sadness – a sort of Proustian melancholy in remembrance of ‘le temps perdu’, which, despite myself, I found extremely moving. It’s adorable – and better than its predecessor.
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