Review: The Second Mother

Regina Casé in The Second Mother

The Second Mother [originally Que Horas Ela Volta?] is a beautiful Brazilian film from 2015. Outstandingly written and directed by Anna Muylaert, the film is a story of class, motherhood, sacrifice, and modern São Paulo. 

Val, wonderfully acted by Regina Casé, is the maid in a family consisting of Barbara (Karine Teles) and Carlos (Lourenço Mutarelli), who are the parents of a son about 18 years of age, Fabinho (Michel Joelsas).

Val has worked for this family for over 10 years and loves Fabinho like a son. Val has a daughter, Jessica (Camila Márdila). Jessica has been raised in a small town by her father and a woman named Sandra with the money sent by Val every month. Jessica is now of college age, and wants to come to São Paulo to go to the university and study architecture.

Regina Casé and Camila Márdila in The Second Mother
You can’t do that. But they asked me. You must say no.

When Jessica arrives she is shocked to learn that her mother lives in the house of the family where she works. Jessica’s young and beautiful and both Carlos and Fabinho immediately fall in love with her. The men in the house invite Jessica to sit at the table with them, put her in the guest room, let her swim in the pool. Val gets very upset by this because Jessica doesn’t know how to act like a proper second class citizen and keep her “place” behind the kitchen door.

Barbara gets very upset by it as well, and makes arrangements to get Jessica out of her house as quickly as possible.

Jessica’s arrival disrupts everything about her mother’s life. Ideas of class and sacrifice are argued about between mother and daughter. When Jessica passes the university entrance exam with very high scores (Fabinho fails it), Val is seized by a feeling of pride and freedom she’s seldom felt before. She finds a tiny photo of a little boy with a pacifier in his mouth in Jessica’s things: the grandson her daughter left behind in the same way Val left Jessica behind.

When the film ends, Val is in a very different place and mindset than she was when it began. It’s a lovely journey to watch. The Second Mother is in Portuguese with English subtitles.

The film is available from Amazon Video, iTunes, DVD and several other sources.

Watch the Trailer for The Second Mother

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