The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta?)

You will fall in love with The Second Mother, a charming honest and hilarious Brazilian drama. Regina Casé – from the award winning film Me You Them (2000), is a hoot as a gruff lovable nanny working for a wealthy middle upper class family. 

When her estranged teenaged daughter comes to stay with her at the home of her employer where she works to search for an apartment in the city of São Paulo while studying for the entrance exam to a prestigious school, a tense social drama begins to unfold, exposing the social divide between generations with comic results.

The Second Mother accurately reflects our current social media obsessed society with a keen observant eye that allows us to see the absurd humor in our unconscious behavior. The film is a scaled down modern version of Downton Abbey, showing us the vast psychological disparity between the servant class and the household’s wealthy family.

While revealing conflicting class values, filmmaker Anna Muylaert gives us a sensitive truthful story of a mother who must come to terms with her guilt and angry teenage daughter who she hasn’t seen in ten years while working far away from her family.

Regina Casé’s performance as Val the nanny is so convincing and charming that she dominates the screen with her large spontaneous personality and exuberant energy. She clearly enjoys her work and loves the family she works for, but she knows her place and has no illusions about her station in life as a servant. 

She knows her limits but that’s not to say she doesn’t enjoy being around the things she can never have. To Val this is just the natural way of life and she just feels lucky to be trusted enough to be a part of the lives of such grand wealthy people.

When Val’s daughter Jéssica arrives for a short stay, her employers are more than happy to accommodate her seeing how happy it will make Val. But Val’s world is quickly turned upside down when it becomes shockingly clear that Jéssica has no such illusions about life that her mother was born with. 

Jéssica has much bigger ambitions than her mother and her attitude is that if she studies hard she will have the same opportunities in life as anyone. She thinks it perfectly normal to be treated as an equal guest in the house regardless of her mother’s employment as a house maid.

It’s fascinating and entertaining to observe the tense conflicts between mother and daughter as well as how the wealthy employer, who wants to seem gracious but also preserve the status quo, suddenly feeling threatened by the less fortunate but more determined and expressive lower class guest.

This movie is well worth seeing for its amusing social commentary and its wonderful ensemble performances which won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting for its two lead actors at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The film also won the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. 

Brazilian cinema has steadily been gaining world attention with such powerful, insightful and artful contemporary films as The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (2008), Neighboring Sounds (2012) and Brazilian Western (2013).


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