Thursday, September 10, 2015

A socially oriented comedy from Brazil

When the hired help lives in the same house as those who hire the help, boundaries very likely will blur -- until class distinctions override any feelings of professed intimacy. That's the kind of observation that gives the Brazilian movie, The Second Mother, its kick. The story focuses on Val (an exceptional Regina Case), a maid in the home of a well-heeled Sao Paulo couple. A decade ago, Val left her daughter Jessica in the care of others, devoting her energies to raising the pampered son (Michel Joelsas) of her wealthy employers (Lourenco Mutarelli and Karine Teles). When Jessica -- now grown -- arrives for a visit, the household's order is upset. Tensions exacerbate as the highly independent Jessica (Camila Madila) ignores the unspoken rules that are supposed to keep the help in line. Some of these rules center on who's allowed to use the family swimming pool and who's permitted to dig into a tub of ice cream that the family has set aside for Joelsas's character. Director Anna Muylaert nicely balances comic and dramatic elements, and the movie seldom loses sight of the social issues that enhance it. The story may move too easily toward a feel-good conclusion, but there are many pleasures to be found in this Brazilian import -- whether you jump fully into its pool or not.

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