Oscilloscope Laboratories has gotten a jump on the 2015 film releases that will be entering the Oscar battle with the announcement this past week that Brazil’s official entry will available as a special edition DVD release on Jan. 12 — the nominations will be announced on Jan. 14 and the 88th edition of the Academy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 28.
A drum roll please … the official entry from Brazil is none other than writer/director Anna Muylaert’s The Second Mother, which has already won the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize.
The ARR for that Jan. 12 street date works out to 137 days and domestic ticket sales currently stand at an impressive $364,010 — that’s a solid number for a foreign language import, which are usually relegated to the arthouse circuit.
The storyline for The Second Mother (the script is also from Muylaert, who established herself as a filmmaker in Brazil with her 2009 award-winner, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) could have easily descended to the depths of the soap opera world … all the makings of a cliché-ridden mess.
Consider this, Val (Regina Casé — Me You Them, Made in China, etc.) is a long-time housekeeper, working for an upscale family in São Paulo. She’s all but raised the family’s son, Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), who is now about to depart for college. This dedication on Val’s part came at the cost of leaving her own daughter behind in a rural small town with her estranged husband … economic opportunities were limited and every real (dollar) earned working for Carlos (Lourenço Mutarelli) and Bárbara (Karine Teles) over the years went home to support her daughter (and her future).
You can readily see that this has all the makings of a sudfest, but Muylaert’s script wisely focuses on Val and her loyalties, strengths, sacrifices and love. There is nothing shallow about her character.
The catalyst that drives the story forward is the arrival of the aforementioned daughter, Jéssica (Camila Márdila), who is also of college age and has arrived to visit her mother in preparation for entrance examines. Val “knows” her place, but to Jéssica, her mother is part of this São Paulo family, and so she views herself as a guest visiting and expects to be treated as such. She’ll have nothing to do with a mattress on the floor of her mother’s basement hidey-hole — there’s a guest room with its own bathroom!
That “attitude” is a like breath of fresh air in this moribund household. A series of vignettes play out — keenly observed, with humor, by Muylaert — that ultimately breaks down the barriers within this “home;” a home that has had love all around it, but never fully understood.
Even Jéssica, at first reluctantly (with petulance), finds within her mother the strength and the love — and sacrifice — that has provided her with a path forward.
Yes, The Second Mother is a worthy entry in this year’s Foreign Language Oscar derby and Oscilloscope Laboratories will have it available on DVD for all to see — whether it makes the final cut or not.
Bonus features include, deleted scenes, Anna Muylaert’s 1995 short film, The Origin of Babies, newly minted video sessions with filmmaker Muylaert, actors Regina Casé and Camila Márdila, plus producer Caio Gullane and French Journalist Pierre-Michel Meier’s interview session with Anna Muylaert in June of this year.
The Second Mother is presented in Portuguese with optional English subtitles.