Val is the kind of live-in housekeeper who takes her work seriously. She wears a crisp maid's uniform while serving perfect canapés; she serves her wealthy São Paulo employers day in and day out while lovingly nannying their teenage son whom she's raised since toddlerhood. Everyone and everything in the elegant house has its place until one day, Val’s ambitious, clever daughter Jessica arrives from Val’s hometown to take the college entrance exams. Jessica’s confident, youthful presence upsets the unspoken yet strict balance of power in the household; Val must decide where her allegiances lie and what she's willing to sacrifice.
With subtly dark, giddy humor and keenly drawn characters, director Anna Muylaert mines the incendiary drama when old ideas and new worlds collide. The immense satisfaction and fun of The Second Mother stem from watching tacit social codes and delicate hierarchies waver as a new generation blithely treads on sacrosanct boundaries. Muylaert has given us a fresh, contemporary spin on class in Brazil, wrapped in a deeply moving story of what belonging and family mean. —C.L.
After directing short films and working as a film critic for major Brazilian newspapers, Anna Muylaert developed children's content for Brazilian broadcasters. In 2001, she directed her first feature film, Durval Discos, and, in 2008, É Proibido Fumar won over 30 Brazilian and international awards. In 2011, Muylaert directed the film Collect Call, a television series, and telefilms for HBO, and collaborated on the scripts of many feature films and series.