A devoted and hardworking live-in housekeeper’s professional and personal lives are turned upside down when her estranged daughter comes to stay with her in writer-director Anna Muylaert’s “The Second Mother.”
Jessica’s (Camila Márdila) entitled behavior shocks and appalls her mother Val (Regina Casé), who has accepted her place at the bottom of the food chain. Jessica’s arrival upsets the relationship dynamics that have governed the household Val calls home: the younger woman doesn’t hesitate to ask and to take, whereas her meek mother makes a living giving as much as possible and expecting nothing in return from the family she serves. Jessica can’t make sense of why her mother accepts her boss’s poor treatment — as though Val really believes herself to be inferior to her employers.
In the first US trailer for the film, which is set in Brazil, Jessica inquires, “What you’re allowed to do and not to do — is there a handbook for that?” The fact that she’s even posing this question — and looking to push buttons and boundaries — shows how different she is from her mother, who responds, “Nobody has to explain that: You’re born knowing it.”
“The Second Mother” was a hit at Sundance, where Márdila and Casé took home the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting. The film also won the Panorama Audience Award in the narrative category at the Berlin Film Festival.
Watch how unspoken divisions of class are brought to the fore when “The Second Mother” arrives in theaters August 28.