The Second Mother

Review by Katherine McLaughlin @Coconutboots

Directed by

Anna Muylaert

Starring

Helena Albergaria Michel Joelsas Regina Casé

Anticipation.

Won awards at Sundance and Berlin.

Enjoyment.

Regina Casé is a marvel.

In Retrospect.

Anna Muylaert is a smart and passionate filmmaker.

The inequalities of Brazilian are writ large in this delightful upstairs/downstairs drama.

Anna Muylaert takes a clever and considered approach to social class in this sharply observed comedy of manners. Val (Regina Casé) has been the housekeeper for a wealthy family in Sao Paulo for as long as her teenage daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila) has been alive, but her decision to work in the city as a means of support has been a barrier towards their developing relationship.

When Jessica organises a stay at the home of Val’s employers, she questions the way in which the family treat both her and her mother. Muylaert traces the passive aggressive lines of oppression between the two clans with wincing conviction. On meeting Jessica, wealthy matriarch Barbara inwardly scoffs at her ambition to become an architect. The film also touches upon elitist, chauvinistic behaviour through husband Carlos (Lourenço Mutarelli) who, rather than respect Jessica decides he would like to own her.

Muylaert cuts through hypocritical bullshit with stinging honesty but manages to keep the warmth of humanity alive through the central relationship. Val attempts to reconcile relations in the house, but a dormant rebellious spirit begins to emerge. Her arc delivers a small victory that ends with a spine-tingling splash of mischief. Casé’s endearing screen presence makes the back and forth with her daughter both compelling and moving, and it warms the heart to observe their fragile bond strengthening.

Val’s altruistic streak is both her downfall and saviour, but she never alters her personality, she just possesses the capacity to take on new things and roll with the punches. The unspoken divide between classes is clearly defined by Muylaert who moves her characters between claustrophobic dwellings and grandly designed buildings.

The Second Mother strikes a passionate moral chord that also connects with conversations about the importance of achieving social change through cross-generational education.

Published 3 Sep 2015

Anticipation.

Won awards at Sundance and Berlin.

Enjoyment.

Regina Casé is a marvel.

In Retrospect.

Anna Muylaert is a smart and passionate filmmaker.

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