Caring for children is sacred work, according to writer-director Anna Muylaert and her film The Second Mother (2015). It’s also very undervalued, under-discussed work. Decades ago, Muylaert envisioned a story about this work and the women who do it. At that time, she felt she wasn’t ready to bring the story to life. After becoming a mother and raising her own children, she found the center for the story in the character of Val. Val is a beacon of love and joy, and our hero. Muylaert also worked hard to find the right trajectory for Val’s daughter, Jessica, making her into what you might consider a warrior.
Muylaert wanted to examine the difference in being a parent and raising children, especially when those two tasks are not necessarily done by the same person. Though the characters’ backgrounds are firmly placed within Brazil’s socioeconomic gulf of the urban and the rural, the story has a universal appeal across gender, border, or bank account. Even when the parent is not necessarily the caretaker, Muylaert doesn’t take the easy road or create easy targets. We are encouraged to look at the unique perspectives of our characters: the young woman from a rural area looking to earn money and do the best for her family; the young man who is a product of loving care from a non-parent; the affluent couple who live in a world that relegates childcare to others as an afterthought.
Did you have a second family, or a second caregiver like Val? Were you a person seeking new avenues in a bigger world, like Jessica? Did you have to make difficult choices, like they both did?
What you’ll find in this episode: how Regina Casé is basically the Oprah of Brazil, our trauma of reliving the proposal scene, and more context about Brazil’s rigid class structure.