Mamma Mia: we rewatched the Mamma Mia movies on Netflix, and we have questions

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Sit back and relax as a die-hard Mamma Mia fan tries (and fails) to connect the dots between the two movies.

There’s no point denying it: Mamma Mia and its sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, are probably the most feel-good films ever made.

The first is all about Donna (Meryl Streep) coming face-to-face with three of her ex-boyfriends (Stellan Skarsgard, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth) on the weekend of her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried)’s wedding. Coincidence? Horrible twist of fate? Nah, it’s all down to Sophie, who read her beloved mum’s 20-year-old diary and invited all of her exes to Greece in a bid to figure out which of the trio is her father.

Mamma Mia 2, meanwhile, sees Donna dead, and Sophie struggling. Big time. She’s struggling with the fact that her boyfriend, Sky (Dominic Cooper), wants to move to New York City. She’s struggling with the realisation that she’s pregnant. And she’s struggling to make her late mum’s dreams come true with a grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna. Sounds bleak, right? Wrong. Thanks to all those flashbacks of Young Donna (Lily James)’s first time in Greece, we get to see her three big romances play out as they happened – and see Greece through her dreamer-eyes for the very first time, too.

Throw in a wealth of toe-tapping ABBA tunes, a plethora of panoramic beach scenes, and a standout turn from Cher, and you have sheer romcom perfection. Not… well, not Oscar-winning perfection, but the kind of perfection that boosts your mood, soothes your soul, makes you laugh, and makes you sing, too.

Essentially, we’re big Mamma Mia fans.  Big. Huge. So, when we learned that both movies are now available to stream on Netflix, we made it our business to take a break and watch them both in full.

And, yeah, we loved them. But… well, we suddenly realised that they are riddled with mistakes and plot holes, too.

With that in mind, then:

Isn’t Donna’s mother supposed to be dead?

In the OG Mamma Mia film, just moments after running into all three of her exes at Sophie’s hen party, Donna throws herself on the bed in despair. “Someone up there has got it in for me,” she wails, pointing upwards to the heavens dramatically. “I bet it’s my mother.”

In Mamma Mia 2, though, we learn that Donna’s mother is not dead. And she’s not just alive, she’s also frickin Cher.

So maybe… well, we know Donna and her mother fell out big time over that unplanned pregnancy (“she told me not to bother coming back,” notes Meryl’s Donna wryly). Perhaps they never reconciled? Perhaps Donna genuinely believed her mother to be dead?

Even with this caveat in place, though, Sophie seems remarkably cavalier about her long-believed-dead grandmother rocking up to her hotel opening, doesn’t she?

And how old was she when she gave birth to Donna?

Cher might be “absolutely fine” with playing Streep’s mother in Mamma Mia 2, but she’s only four years older than her. Four years. That poses some unsettling questions now, doesn’t it?

Do Tanya and Rosie suffer from amnesia, or…?

In the OG Mamma Mia, Tanya and Rosie are beyond shocked to learn that their pal Donna has slept with three guys in quick succession. “Why didn’t you tell us?” Rosie exclaims.

Well, she probably didn’t think she needed to. Because, in Mamma Mia 2, we learn that they didn’t just know about it: they met both Sam and Bill (not Harry, though – more on that momentarily) when they were visiting Donna in Kalokairi. 

Hmm.

And did they never think about switching up their looks?

If you watch both movies, you’ll note that Donna, Rosie, and Tanya all kept the same exact hairstyles for 40 years. Which, to be fair, isn’t the most unbelievable assertion ever made, but still. You’d think living through a few seminal decades (the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s) might encourage them to try a few big hair trends, no?

Mamma Mia
Nobody ever changes their hairstyle in the Mamma Mia world, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Can we… can we just talk about Donna’s three big life-changing romances, please?

Sophie finds Donna’s diary back in the OG Mamma Mia movie, and rifles through it to find out more about her mum’s sex life. As you do.

In doing so, she learns three key details. Firstly, that her mum had sex with Sam “on the little island” first. Secondly, that Donna – nursing a broken heart after Sam’s betrayal – took Bill over to the little island, one thing led to another, and “dot dot dot”. Thirdly, that “Harry turned up out of the blue”, prompting Donna to whisk him away to that same little island for some tender loving, too.

In Mamma Mia 2, though, everything is different. She meets Sam on the little island, for starters, just a week or so after having a one-night stand with Harry back in Paris. Harry never makes it to Greece at all, in fact. And she doesn’t have “dot dot dot” with Bill on the island: instead, they get down ‘n’ dirty on his boat.

And while we’re on the subject of Harry…

In the first movie, Firth’s Harry finds his old guitar in Donna’s goatshed, and liberates it for a boat trip round the island. It’s during this trip that he informs his possible daughter that he “was studying in Paris” when he first met Donna. That, in the City of Love, they shared a spirited romance – one which resulted in him buying her a guitar (“It cost me £10, plus my Johnny Rotten T-shirt). And then, when she disappeared to Kolokairi, he “hopped on a train and followed her to Greece. Quite spontaneously.”

Here’s a reminder:

The Mamma Mia 2 film, though, does Harry’s backstory dirty. He doesn’t go to Greece. His and Donna’s romance lasts for… ooh, one evening? Max? He doesn’t even give her the bloody guitar, either. In fact, when Young Harry is stood on the docks watching Donna’s boat sail away from him, he’s holding the bloody guitar in his hands.

And, to add insult to injury, he’s wearing the very same Johnny Rotten t-shirt he’s supposed to have flogged for a tenner, too.

We present to the jury Exhibit B:

So how did Donna wind up with said guitar in her keeping in the future? How?

Also, about Sam…

Despite Donna’s diary musings, Sam doesn’t ride Donna over to the little island: as we see in Mamma Mia 2, she meets him there while attempting to rescue a horse from… from heavy rain? And he doesn’t “announce” that he’s engaged, either: she rifles through his belongings and finds a photo of him and his diamond-toting fiancée.

Which begs the question: why you lying, Donna? In your own diary? 

And Sam’s bagpipes…

In the OG film, Brosnan’s Sam wryly notes that Streep’s Donna has kept his bagpipes. His bagpipes

Did anyone notice Young Sam playing bagpipes in the Mamma Mia 2 flashback scenes? Were they ever even mentioned? And, if so, why on earth did he take them to Greece on holiday with him? 

Asking for a friend.

Now, a note on Bill…

Donna’s diary notes that Bill rents a motorboat so that they can go out to the little island – but, as we all know from Mamma Mia 2, he owns a boat of his very own. Also, Sophie tells Skarsgård’s Bill that she’s named for his Aunt Sofia – aka the woman who cared for her growing up.

One must assume, then, that this is the very same Sofia that Maria Vacratsis portrays in the sequel? You know, the one who guides Young Donna through labour, and gifts her an old farmhouse to raise her baby in? Except…

Well, she’s not Young Bill’s aunt. He’s only in Greece for a boat race, after all, and he never even so much as gives Sofia a nod when they cross paths at her bar. So, if Donna and Bill only enjoyed a brief fling, how on earth did she wind up in touch with his family and get them on babysitting duties?

Side note: Sophie serenades Bill in a deleted scene from the OG film, which elevates their father-daughter narrative above the others. Anyone else think this means he’s her biological father? No? Just us then.

Also, can we just admit the whole timeline is screwed?

Donna graduated from Oxford University in 1979, which means she’s in her early 20s when she boards a boat to Greece. Assuming all her encounters happened within that year, we can safely assume that Sophie was probably born in 1980. Or 1981, at a push.

In the first film, we are told countless times that Sophie is 20. “If I were her, I wouldn’t be getting married at 20,” Streep’s Donna remarks in hushed tones to her pals. So, yeah, we can safely assume that the first film is set in 2000.

But Mamma Mia 2 is set five years after the original movie. And, yeah, all our favourite characters are using the iPhone 6. Despite the fact that, y’know, the smartphone has barely been invented yet.

And why is Donna dead?

As mentioned, it’s only been five years since the events of the first Mamma Mia film took place. Donna was healthy as a horse in that movie, running around on rooftops and sprinting up mountainous hills – in heels – to get to her daughter’s wedding.

So… what happened? Was it a sudden illness? A horrible accident? Why on earth is nobody talking about this? Because, if she married Sam five years ago, and he’s saying they shared several happy years of marriage, this has to be an incredibly recent tragedy.

And finally… does ABBA exist in the Mamma Mia movies?

Presumably all of the songs featured in the films are Donna & The Dynamos originals, right? So we just have to ignore the Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson cameos. That, or assume they’ve broken their own timelines and travelled back to the 70s in a bid to sort it out.

To be honest, we’re willing to believe anything at this point. Fingers crossed that the rumoured Mamma Mia 3 movie clears up some of this lingering confusion, eh?

Or, at the very least, that it features ABBA’s hugely underrated Ring Ring song, because that one’s an absolute tune.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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