Tuesday, 22 September 2015


Anna Muylaert's The Second Mother is everything it shouldn't be. It's a funny, uplifting social drama, a cultural examination that draws inferences from its subjects more than their situation, a predictable family melodrama that strips itself bare of all theatricality and thus all predictability too. It's not the film you expect it to be, and confounds those expectations throughout, particularly at the most unexpected moments. Plain, deep focus cinematography gives Muylaert's scenes a visual flatness, the static images only given shape and purpose by the figures therein. Her film is highly economical, these characters making full use of their environment, which is also ours, and serving both as entry point into The Second Mother's story and as education from it - distinct characterisation and empathetic performances endear us to these people, that we might be more susceptible to understand them, to empathise ourselves. The soapy scenario and the simplistic character construction combine to unusually profound effect, as Muylaert infuses them with a sharp verisimilitude in her perceptive dialogue, and a thematic complexity in the societal parallels she draws. It's fluff, but premium grade fluff, and it never feels like fluff because it doesn't operate like fluff. And no matter how obvious the semi-metaphorical stuff about class and generational conflict is, it's persuasive nonetheless, so smartly written is The Second Mother. Regina Case delivers a terrific performance as the titular live-in-maid / nanny, embodying the film's broadness and typifying its deceptive intelligence in the sheer accuracy of her portrayal - she feels like a real person, and the film feels like the real deal.