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The Second Mother 

Wednesday, Sep 2 2015
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Anna Muylaert'sThe Second Motheris a modern version of what used to be called a "woman's weepie," movies that usually centered on a nobly suffering mother and her ungrateful daughter (and frequently starred Bette Davis). In present-day São Paulo, Val (Regina Casé) is the live-in housekeeper of a well-to-do family led by matriarch Bárbara (Karine Teles), and whose son Fabinho (Michel Joelsas) Val has raised like her own. Enter Val's actual daughter Jéssica (Camila Márdila), an independent and fiercely intelligent student whom Val hasn't seen in decade and who cares not for her mother's bottom-rung status in the house caste system. She's happy sitting at the family's table and eating their food instead, all while being creeped on by aging hipster father Carlos (Lourenço Mutarelli).The Second Motheris occasionally heavy-handed in its indictment of How We Live Now, including a scene in which the family members are all engrossed in their phones while sitting at the dinner table, but it also functions as a fascinating formal experiment: The camera never moves except for two important dolly shots. But the picture really belongs to the fantastic Regina Casé, who finds the humanity in her put-upon character even as she's giving terrible advice to her daughter, such as a commandment to always refuse others' hospitality. (Stop telling your children that, parents.)

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Sherilyn Connelly

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