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The Second Mother Review

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Val (Casé) is a live-in housekeeper for a wealthy Brazilian family and the perfect mother to their son (Joelsas) but when Val's estranged daughter (Márdila) comes to stay, she refuses to slip into the family's status quo and quickly exposes their malaise.

★★★★

Val (Casé) is a live-in housekeeper for a wealthy Brazilian family and the perfect mother to their son (Joelsas), whom she raised from toddler to teen. But when Val’s estranged daughter (Márdila) comes to stay, the smart, self-assured young woman refuses to slip into the family’s status quo and quickly exposes their malaise.

Anna Muylaert’s close setting cleverly lends itself to broader reflections on tradition, but Casé makes the story sing. Utterly convincing as a woman choosing between the life she knows and the one she wants, she and Márdila duly shared the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award For Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s a missed opportunity to leave the motivations of Val’s insensitive employer (Teles) unexplored, but that’s the only blot on a finely drawn picture of class, kin and longing.

Anna Muylaert's close setting cleverly lends itself to broader reflections on tradition, but Casé makes the story sing. Utterly convincing.

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