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October 5, 2015

VIFF 2015: The Second Mother avoids bleak pitfalls


Ken Eisner / The Georgia Straight

The English title of this expertly judged upstairs-downstairs tale should be A Second Mother, as in the role of Val (played by Brazil’s great Regina Casé), a live-in maid who has essentially raised the only offspring of a wealthy São Paulo family. Consequently, she wasn’t even a first mother to her own daughter (Camila Márdila), newly arrived from the remote northeast.

The young woman, who wants to be an architect and never got the memo about being anyone’s servant, immediately disturbs the household’s delicate hierarchy, but not in the heavy-handed ways you would expect.

Anna Muylaert’s carefully composed images provide a cool stage for some hot acting—all of which manages to be amusingly uplifting rather than sociologically bleak.