Criticism and Condescension: The Triumph of the Poor in The Second Mother
Bruna Della Torre de Carvalho Lima
During the 14 years of the Workers’ Party’s government in Brazil, a new phenomenon disrupted an old tense and fragile balance in the country’s social order. Anna Muylaert builds her movie The Second Mother around this new phenomenon.
The story is well known. In fact, Muylaert relied on her own experience with her son’s babysitter to structure her movie’s narrative. Val (played by Regina Casé) migrates from Pernambuco, where she leaves her daughter, to São Paulo, where she looks for new opportunities. In the new city she becomes the maid in the household of a wealthy family in the rich neighborhood of Morumbi, noted for its affluence and its conservative leanings. Ten years after Val’s departure, her daughter, Jéssica (Camila Márdila), travels to São Paulo in pursuit of her studies—she is taking her college entrance exams at the University of São Paulo’s Department of Architecture and Urbanism. Jéssica asks to stay in the house of the family that employs Val. Up to this point, the film presents a story strikingly familiar to poor Brazilian women. Because she actually knows where she belongs, Val can be treated as “a family member.” She lacked the resources to raise her own daughter, but her circumstances cause her to raise her employer’s son, Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), with whom she forges an emotional relationship. She has no such bond with anyone else. When Jéssica reenters her life, the harmonious and balanced status quo is disrupted. The young woman refuses to play the role of “the maid’s daughter”: she asks to stay in the guest...
CONTINUE READING THE FULL ARTICLE HERE