I’m so glad I am learning Portuguese. Had I not been learning this wonderful language I might have missed out on this incredible foreign film. Anna Muylaert directs and really knocks it out of the park in a film that hits on many cylinders. “Que Horas Ela Volta” tells the story of Val (Regina Casé), a hard working and loving live-in housekeeper/nanny that has pretty much become part of the family she works for. When her estranged daughter, Jessica (Camila Márdila) comes to live with her in preparation for college entrance exams it quickly becomes apparent exactly what her status is. Class barriers are exposed and things are never the same.
“Second Mother,” as the film has been deemed for US audiences, examines the class divide in Brazil and exposes cultural mores that are pretty deeply ingrained. It does it all without feeling overly tragic or dramatic keeping a light hearted tone throughout. The film has generated early Oscar buzz for Best International Film out of Brazil. So exactly how has it done all of that?
Lets take a look, shall we?
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 4
“Second Mother” takes place in São Paulo Brazil however the city doesn’t play a large part in the story. It really is a story about the society as a whole in Brazil. Everything is mostly self-contained in the family home however the story is shot well enough that you don’t notice the confined setting. While there are a few lingering scenes that could have been edited a slight bit tighter, the movie moves along and keeps you engaged in the narrative. That gripe didn’t stop it from garnering Best Fiction Film in Panorama Audience Award, a category of the Berlin International Film Festival. I will say I could have used a bit more Samba but the music served its purpose and even without it the passion and energy of the Brazilian people was conveyed.
As for the actors they all deliver very solid performances, highlighted by Regina Casé. As Val she has earned accolades for best actress at the Sundance Film Festival as well as the prize for female interpretation in the Valenciennes Film Festival, in France. Camila Márdila also won a nod for the award of Best Actress in the Sundance Film Festival. I could only whole-heartedly agree. Their performances are quite on point. The guys of the film did a good job but it’s the women that really shine here. Although I did find myself laughing at Dr. Carlos’ (Lourenço Mutarelli) awkward moments more than once.
Entertainment Value – 5
Watching the situation go from bad to worse was definitely entertaining. This movie is fun. Coming from an outside observers point a view (spoiler alert I am not actually Brazilian) I felt I got great insight into the family dynamics and I wanted to be part of it. The characters are engaging throughout and their interplay is fun to watch. The comedy is subtle but apparent. There are quite a few moments that are also heartwarming and some that are heartbreaking as well. But as I mentioned before this movie isn’t heavy. The subject matter is deep and definitely gripping but handled in a way that you feel like you could watch again without a box of tissues while curling into a ball on the couch. The mannerisms and body language are fun to watch and interpret. It’s a lot of the fun, seeing how the characters react to the situation. Whether it’s what parts of the house the help can and can’t use or seeing Val listen to what’s going on with the family despite needing to stay out of sight it is all entertaining and fun.
Rewatchability – 4
Since I am learning the language I will definitely be watching again to see how far I have come. Aside from that it is a fun movie that gets into the “how things work” of Brazilian society. Regina Casé is amazing. I wish she was my nanny! There are also a lot of nuances in the communication between the characters so it would be fun to re-watch to see what I missed on the first go round. I would definitely give this film another viewing. It’s a great piece of work.
(My Re-watch –ability chart)
- 0=Pretend I never saw it and have no desire to
- 1=Never watching again
- 2=Would probably sit through if it popped up on HBO or FX
- 3=Would DVR it and watch again or recommend to watch with a friend
- 4=wouldn’t mind killing time to see it in the theater again. In fact I would like to do that
- 5=I am going to see this in the theater again, maybe twice more as well as stop what I am doing and watch every time it is on TV.)
- Entertainment Value
"Second Mother" is a great film that really deserves all the accolades it is receiving. It dives into culture in a way that isn’t abrasive or divisive all will making you laugh and think. If you are looking for a really good foreign film to wet your appetite for international cinema you couldn’t do much better than this film. The characters are engaging and everything feels organic, fresh and light-hearted. While not a slapstick or raunchy or over the top comedy, it is still a comedy that garners a Second Viewing. Este filme é que otimo!!!