R | 112 min | Drama
Language: Portuguese with English Subtitles
Review - Matt Mungle
**The Angelika Dallas and select theaters September 11th*
Synopsis: When the estranged daughter of a hard-working live-in housekeeper suddenly appears, the unspoken class barriers that exist within the home are thrown into disarray.
Review: Anna Muylaert writers and directs an amazingly beautiful and poignant film. THE SECOND MOTHER is a portrait of hard work and sacrifice that never feels heavy or remorseful. It somehow emits joy in the light of circumstance.
Val (Regina Casé) has worked for Barbara (Karine Teles) and Carlos (Lourenço Mutarelli) for years. Like many servants she practically raised their son Fabinho (Michel Joelsas). Val understands her role and embraces it with a steadfast diligence and a huge, loving heart. She is fine with her situation and you understand quickly that she respects and values the rules that govern her position. When her daughter Jéssica (Camila Márdila), who she hasn't seen in over a decade, shows up to enroll in the local university her modern way of thinking clashes with Val's.
This film sounds like the typical upstairs/downstairs plot that we see in movies about maids and the homes they serve. What makes this one stand out is not only the character of Val but the point of it being a Brazilian resident working for a Brazilian family. Had it been set in LA and centered around a white American family it would have lost much of its rich culture and deep emotion. This grounds the dynamic and makes it unique for American audiences.
Barbara and Carlos have a different view of Jéssica and the cast system as a whole. Barbara likes the division and even though Carlos is willing to be waited on hand and foot he seems to have a softer appreciation for the human inside the uniform. Val dotes on them so much that you wonder how they could ever live without her. Especially Fabinho.
Most have never heard the name Regina Casé but after this you will never forget her. Winner of the Moliére Award as best theater actress at the age of 23, Regina carries a history of success throughout Brazil, in the theater, cinema and TV. She uses her warmth and subtle humor to create a character who is nurturing, strong, and determined. You will instantly love her and feel a tiny bit of jealousy that she isn't there to hug and pamper you.
As the story unfolds you eventually see why Val has made the decisions that kept her and her daughter apart. Now that she has the chance to rekindle the relationship she is delighted. But the lines that are clear to her make no sense to her modern daughter. She is a nervous wreck watching her daughter break the rules that her profession understand. But she does it in a way that is often humorous and realistic. Casé truly does make the role look effortless and unrehearsed.
THE SECOND MOTHER is rated R for some language and brief drug use. I am sort of surprised at the rating. Other than a brief scene in which Jéssica uses the F word in an argument with her mom there is very little in the way of overtly adult content. I give it 4.5 out of 5 entrance exams. Rich characters, cultural relevance, and superb acting make this a must see for lovers of international films.