A brilliant rendition of the prevalent but unspoken class differences in every society that further benefits from the writer-director’s clear understanding of the relationship between an employer & an employee, The Second Mother is a measured, introspective & finely balanced story that takes a straightforward approach in tackling its themes but also offers plenty of laughs in between.
Set in São Paolo, Brazil, The Second Mother (also known as Que Horas Ela Volta?) tells the story of Val, a hardworking & live-in housekeeper who has served her employers well for over a decade but has to live with the guilt of leaving her daughter behind. However, when Val’s daughter decides to visit her, the existing class divide between the servants & their employers is thrown into disarray.
Written & directed by Anna Muylaert, The Second Mother doesn’t take much time in setting up its plot and swiftly briefs us through Val’s daily routine plus the trust she has garnered over the years. Muylaert’s direction shows great composure, all characters exhibit a well defined arc, and while the plot brims with lots of heart & warmth, it’s always ready to take a witty bite whenever opportunity surfaces.
Further enhancing the film’s urban look n feel are its posh set pieces, bright colour tones & smooth camerawork when operating inside the house. Its 112 minutes of runtime unfolds like a breeze, the technical aspects are kept remarkably simple & wonderfully compliment the whole narrative while the cast leaves no stone unturned to bring its interesting characters to life in a convincing manner.
Coming to the acting department, the best performance comes from Regina Casé for her work as Val is absolutely sensational and she’s the one who keeps everything glued together. Camila Márdila plays Val’s daughter whose arrival & disregard for existing social norms results in an invisible layer of uneasiness between the two mothers while the rest of the supporting cast ably play their given roles.
On an overall scale, The Second Mother is an enjoyable, entertaining & delightfully amusing tale of motherhood, social hierarchy & the roles each class is expected to play without being verbally told. Regina Casé’s performance is the real highlight here but it doesn’t mean that rest of the input is underwhelming. Filled with meaty characters & never losing its funny edge, The Second Mother is definitely a pleasant surprise.