Review of Anna Muylaert’s The Second Mother in Aesthetica Magazine

Thirteen years ago housekeeper Val (Regina Casé) left her young family to earn a living raising a stranger’s son in São Paulo. But when her self-possessed teenaged daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila) arrives out of the blue she begins to question her relationship with her wealthy bosses and reasons for staying on the other side of the kitchen door.

Unlike her mother, who must endure daily indignities – the ice cream she cannot eat, the pool she cannot swim in – Jessica, an aspiring architect, does exactly what she wants. For writer-director Anna Muylaert, she’s a neat signpost for Brazil’s seismic social change, an embodiment of the young generation shaking off the country’s colonial past. “I don’t consider myself any better or worse than anybody else,” she says.

Yet The Second Mother, shot with unblinking realism, reaches beyond the bounds of social satire. At its core it is a finely-tuned study of motherhood, of sacrifice, of second chances. In the lose-lose paradox of leaving one child to raise another, this tiny cast (lead by the brilliant Casé) finds warmth and a serendipitous humour.

Grace Caffyn

Anna Muylaert, The Second Mother, Soda Pictures is now available on DVD.

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1. Still from Anna Muylaert’s The Second Mother, Soda Pictures.