The Second Mother illustrates the shifting opinion between generations, when it comes to domestic work, and how even when you are sacrificing for the betterment of your child, you not being there will always remain a constant issue.
Characters & Story
For most of Jéssica’s (Camila Márdila) life, her mother Val (Regina Casé) has been absent. In fact, it has been 10 years since the two have physically seen each other. Yet, to try to stay active in her child’s life, Val calls constantly and makes sure Sandra, who is physically raising Jéssica, has money to make sure she can go to school and more.
Now, as for what Val does while Jéssica is raised by a woman who isn’t her mother? Well, she was a domestic worker. One which acted as the 2nd mother to a young man named Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), who treats Val better than his own mother, and who pretty much is at the beck and call of her employers Dr. Carlos (Lourenço Mutarelli) and Dona Barbara (Karine Teles).
Leading to the heart of the story which deals with Jéssica coming to San Paulo to temporarily live with Val, within Dr. Carlos’ home. A situation which leads to many issues since while Val is well used to acting humbled and submissive, Jéssica is not. Thus leading to many clashes between Jéssica and her mother, as well as Jéssica and Dona Barbara. Making it so, Val is forced to decide between saving her already fractured relationship with her daughter and maintaining the relationship with her employer who slowly but surely comes to dislike Jéssica’s presence in her home.
Despite the drama which goes on between Val and Jéssica, much less Jéssica and Dona Barbara, none of it feels written just for the sake of soap opera styled drama. If anything, everything seen and addressed pretty much focuses largely on what you expect to happen. Jéssica addresses her mom’s abandonment, and how strange it is for her mom to be so proud to be treated as if she is so lowly, and of course Val, in return, tries to get through to Jéssica that life doesn’t guarantee you some grand position in which you don’t have to sometimes humble yourself.
On top of this, we have a few family secrets, of which Dr. Carlos participates, and such interesting, and dynamic, relationships which show the vast complexity of Val’s life, and how trying to juggle everyone’s personality and keep them happy with her, is an undertaking.
When it comes to any film which, despite the characters’ drama, seems to want to be rooted in realism, naturally it leads to a lot of anti-climatic moments. Of which, I honestly felt like many times in the film, whether it was Fabinho going away to Austrailia, or Jéssica leaving Dona Barbara’s home because she couldn’t take it anymore, that it should have hit harder. Granted, in both cases, you can see Val is in an emotional state, but it just felt weird to me that in times of Val’s saddest moments, there wasn’t a single tear coming from my eye. Which isn’t to say the performances were bad, but more so that as good as the film is, and especially Casé, it lacks that certain connection it could have with the audience to really bring you, full force, into the mind and heart of Val.
Overall: Worth Seeing
Despite not delivering any emotional uppercuts, it is hard to deny a film is good if it can keep you from checking your watch, despite it being two hours in length. For truly, Casé delivers the type of performance which, depending on how the race for major accolades will be this year, certainly needs to be recognized. Since she took a character which could have been over the top, or generic, and made it someone personable who really got you to think. Plus, being that I had the pleasure of going to a showing with a few women who had domestic helpers in Brasil, it seems the depiction shown was more accurate than one could imagine. Granted, Dr. Carlos’ part was probably for some added drama, but everything else fit like a glove. Making it so this film is like an opportunity to peer into a possible real person’s life vs. being entertained by something maybe based off of real people, but then embellished for the sake of entertainment.