The Second Mother (2015)
Cast: Regina Casé, Helena Albergaria, Michel Joelsas
Director: Anna Muylaert
Rated: R for language and drug use
Brazilian filmmakers are recently coming up with very good films. Some of their works that I have seen are Trash (2014) and Elite Squad (2007 & 2010). This movie is an interesting showcase of the class bias that exists between the haves and haves not in Brazil. It is a subtle and sensitive portrayal on the role of women in a society and the social segregation that exists in the Brazilian society.
Val (played by the excellent Regina Casé) has been working both as a nanny and a housemaid for an upper middle class family for 10 years. She is supposedly regarded as the member of the family although she has been living in shabby servant’s quarter within the house. Things become interesting when Val’s daughter Jéssica (played by Camila Márdila) comes to stay with her for a short period to give her college admission exam. The girl is bright, educated and very soon her presence starts affecting the whole household, especially Val. Slowly and surely the class divide rears its ugly head up, exposing the politically correct attitude of the employers. We are clearly able to see through the underlying hypocrisy of the situation.
The thing that I really love about this movie is that it has a comedic tone and does not over dramatize the situations. Some of the scenes may be a tad uncomfortable to watch but it doesn’t come across as tragic. The engaging drama is interspersed with occasional dark humor. The film moves at a steady tempo and often keeps you guessing what will happen next. The ending though not very strong clearly suits the narrative of the story,
The cast members have put in an excellent performance. The characters in this movie are realistic with all of them depicting nuanced shades of grey. In fact this movie was offered by Brazil to be nominated for an Oscar (which wasn’t accepted). Almost 80% of the movie is shot in a single location/house with very few scenes outside of the house. The rooms and set pieces around the household almost act as secondary characters. The director skillfully uses the different spaces in the house to highlight the class difference between the employers and the employees.
The film is not without its flaws though. The length of the movie could be shortened by at least 15 minutes. The beginning of the meanders till the time Val’s daughter arrives on the scene. The end of the movie is stretched unnecessarily and is the weakest part of the film.
The strong social commentary in the movie narrative resonates with us because we too are the victims and beneficiaries of the class divide. This social problem is not limited to Brazil alone. It is happening all around us but we choose to ignore it. Writer/director Anna Muylaert has done a fairly good job in portraying this message through her film. The movie is a light and breezy watch despite a complicated subject matter. My rating for this movie is 7 stars out of 10.
You can also check out my reviews and recommendations of other films in the Movies page.