Festival Review: The Second Mother / Que Horas Ela Volta?

Que Horas Ela Volta?

The glorious story of one woman’s emancipation, Anna Muylaert’s The Second Mother is a hilarious and quietly devastating parable of modern Brazil.

Dreams Of A Life

by Mark Wilshin

The Second Mother

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Meaning in Portuguese When Will She Return?, Que Horas Ela Volta? has for once a better title in English, for in Anna Muylaert’s The Second Mother, there are second mothers everywhere. Val (Regina Casé) is a maid looking after Doña Barbara’s son Fabinho in São Paulo, while her daughter Jessica is being brought up elsewhere. Val sends money and pays the bills while someone else gets the nice part. But she gets the best part with Fabi. And it’s a fragile constellation of roles that’s shaken up when Jessica comes to live with her mother, so that she can study for the university entrance exam. She has none of her mother’s reserve, believing herself the equal to Doña Barbara and her family. And as she accepts the hollow invitations thrown at her – a guest bedroom, Fabinho’s special ice cream and a swim in their pool, she puts Val in an awkward position. Regina Casé is a joy as the maid caught between two worlds, and The Second Mother is perfectly scripted, as Val’s belief in the superiority of her family is slowly but surely undermined. It might not be original, with both Sebastián Silva’s The Maid and Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo recounting their love for their childhood maids, but Anna Muylaert’s The Second Mother is nevertheless a delicious tale of modern Brazil and one woman’s glorious road to emancipation.

The Second Mother is now showing at the 65th Berlin Film Festival

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