7:30 PM, 6th April, 2017
PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE EMBASSY OF BRAZIL IN CANBERRA
Val (Casé) is a live-in maid who has been working for more than a decade for an upper-middle class family in São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. She cleans, cooks, raises her bosses’ son as her own, and is referred to by them as ‘part of the family’. However, Val does not eat at the same table nor swim in the swimming pool. Not that she would ever dream of doing such things – she ‘knows her place’.
The dynamics of the house implode when Val’s estranged daughter Jessica (Márdila) comes to São Paulo to take her university admission exams and asks to stay with her mother, only to find out that Val lives in a small back room. Argumentative, Jessica questions the structure that seems so natural to Val and the family and stretches boundaries never challenged. Even visually, Jessica appears in more open scenes, while Val is constrained by walls and doorways.
In her previous movies, director Anna Muylaert has always explored the universe of Brazilian middle-class, seldom featured in films that reach international audiences. The Second Mother is her most mature and moving piece, showing the contrast between mother and daughter and social classes without falling into easy dualities of right/wrong. Ace comedian Casé leaves her comfort zone to portray Val in the delicate relationship with her daughter, both well deserving of the special prize received at the Sundance Festival.
Ana Paula Lacerda