The Second Mother

 

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In Anna Muylaert’s touching, funny and ultimately shocking film, maternity comes under the microscope – along with the Brazilian class system.


Maternity comes in many shades. To Fabinho, his nanny and family’s housekeeper, Val, is a woman who seems to understand him better than his own biological mother, Bárbara. For Bárbara and her husband Carlos, Val is the essential engine of their household, a woman who understands their quirks and demands and who runs their lives with unquestioning efficiency. Val is not only a second mother to Fabinho but is the integral heart of the family. She is family. But Val is also the biological mother of Jéssica, a teenager Fabinho’s age, whom Val has not seen for ten years. When Jéssica announces that she is coming to São Paulo to sit an admissions exam, she is keen to be reunited with the mother she hardly knows. But how can the smart and attractive Jéssica fit in with the structured status quo of her mother’s world?

  

 Second Mother

 Mother's day: Camila Márdila and Regina Casé

 

With a deftness and canny understanding of the human condition, the São Paulo-born filmmaker Anna Muylaert sets up her domestic drama with the compassionate know-how of her female protagonist. She is in no hurry to scatter her narrative with melodramatic plot-holds, but eases us gently into the politics and family dynamic of this privileged Brazilian household. She is blessed by a wonderfully warm and funny performance from the comedian and TV personality Regina Casé, whose Val is both sly and long-suffering, yet completely human. When Jéssica (Camila Márdila) finally turns up to discomfit the social sang-froid, it is a relief that she is pretty but not stunning, and that she even resembles her on-screen mother. Here, every nuance rings true. And it says a lot of a film when one of its most suspenseful and dramatic highlights is the illicit consumption of a tub of ice cream…

 

Above all, The Second Mother is bracingly believable, yet still very funny, shocking and poignant, with all the embarrassment, pain, humour, hypocrisy, joy and injustice of real life vacuum-packed into its sublime 111 minutes.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON


Cast: Regina Casé, Michel Joelsas, Camila Márdila, Karine Teles, Lourenço Mutarelli.

 

Dir Anna Muylaert, Pro Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane, Debora Ivanov and Anna Muylaert, Screenplay Anna Muylaert, Ph Bárbara Alvarez, Art Dir Marquinho Pedroso, Ed Karen Harley, Music Vitor Araújo and Fábio Trummer, Costumes Cláudia Kopke and André Simonetti.

 

Africa Filmes/Globo Filmes/Gullane Filmes-Soda Pictures.

111 mins. Brazil. 2015. Rel: 4 September 2015. Cert. 15.