Genre – Comedy
Run Time – 108 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – Brazil
Awards – 26 Wins & 18 Nominations
Amazon – £ DVD £ Blue Ray
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Now here is a cracking little film from Brazil that swept their national film awards and many more around the world’s film festivals, Brazil’s official entry for Best Film in a Foreign Language at The Oscars in 2015. It’s by Brazilian female director Anna Muyleart and stars Regina Casé, the superstar of Brazilian film. She is magnificent here in this tale of gentle class conflict in a posh suburb of Sao Paulo as she rekindles her relationship with coming of age daughter. Originally it was to be titled The Kitchen Door, and it was based on Muylaert’s own experience with a nanny who cared for her son after he left his own daughter to work in the big city.
When you are young you don’t rally understand how much social class will play in your life but one day it hits you and you start looking at statistics on education, wages and stuff and you realize some big leavers have been pulled against your life chances. It s a double edged sword, of course, as you can also blame the class system for all your failures in life. In Brazil its poverty and skin color that defines the class system with what is now one of the worlds biggest oil rich economies. But the divide is stark, 70% of the population in poverty as the wealthy and ghettos live in that close proximity, unlike anywhere else in the world. When Brazil’s left wing came out on the streets and protested about corruption and the money spent on the Olympics and the World Cup a few years back some felt it was really Brazils guilty middle-class on the streets who have no problem in employing maids and gardeners for a subsistence wages from those ghettoes that drive the poverty divide.
• Regina Casé as Val
• Michel Joelsas as Fabinho
• Camila Márdila as Jéssica
• Karine Teles as Barbara
• Lourenço Mutarelli as José Carlos
• Helena Albergaria as Edna
• Luci Pereira as Raimunda
49-year-old Val (Regina Casé), from the poorer district of Pernambuco, has been a live-in maid for a comfortable middle - class family in a likewise suburb of São Paulo for 13-years now, taking care of handsome 16-year-old Fabinho (Michel Joelsas) for most of those years, son of a Doctor José Carlos (Lourenço Mutarelli) and his pushy wife Barbara (Karine Teles). Val has sacrificed a lot to be there and had to leave her daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila) at a very young age so to find the reasonably well paid maids job in the big city so to support Jessica, left to live with an aunt in Pernambuco. Fabinho and Val have a close relationship as she is his second mother and that has come at the expense of her relationship with her daughter who harbors resentment.
Val receives a call from Jessica saying she wants to study in Sao Paulo for her university education and has to take the entrance exam there soon and so can she come and stay with her. Val is too proud and has not told her daughter she is a live in maid and has to ask the family for permission to let Jessica stay while she searches for an apartment for the two of them. When Val goes to pick up Jessica from the bus depot there is immediate tension as Val hasn't seen Jessica in ten years and fails to recognize her daughter. Jessica is also annoyed she will be sleeping on a mattress with mom at her employer’s house in the maids quarters downstairs.
When Jessica is finally presented to the family she is as stuck up as them, Don Carlos immediately intrigued by the intelligent and feisty Jessica when he finds out she is studying architecture. Jessica is not intimidated by her mom’s middleclass employers and notes that their guest suite is empty and, as she is a guest, the family should let her stay there, which mom Barbara sniffingly agrees to and dad keen on for some reason.
Over the week Val grows increasingly upset that Jessica has her feet firmly under the table and seems to have little regard for the unspoken class differences in the house, treating the family like equals and eating lunch with them at the main table as mom serves them. Is this challenge to both mom and Barbara her revenge for leaving her alone at a young age or is this a lesson in emancipation and the fact we are all born equal?
I really enjoyed this and the standout foreign film I have seen so far this year. It reminds me a lot of the rather excellent Neighboring Sounds, also from Brazil, and two for your list if you enjoy intelligent and funny subtitled film. That whole class thing works so well in any language and has you pulling for which ever class you are. Obviously here the class lines are drawn and enforced by both sides as Val knows her place and Barbara enjoys her place. There are one or two cringe moments on that subject that felt forced in the film that quickly deducted my fifth ciao star but this is still a real treat.
The whole thing with service when you do travel abroad to places like South America and South Africa is eye opening. I can’t stand the idea of rich families employing poorer people to be their maids in the Southern Hemisphere but it is a status thing there. If you are white family in South Africa without at least a black maid and gardener you would be looked down on. It takes some getting used to. When I worked in a backpacker’s hostel in Cape Town as a handyman I was paid more money then the black maids and so I secretly gave them some of my wages to make us equal. But one of them fell in love with me so all went pear shaped so I had to leave after three months. That was definitely looked down on.
It’s a funny and smart movie and I chuckled away regularly in a knowing way. The actors are great but Regina Casé is just brilliant and you should see the film just for her performance alone. Her pure frustration with her daughter embarrassing her by not being subservient is bliss. But, of course, her daughter is the next generation and emancipated and intelligent and she is not having her mom spending the rest of her life scraping and can’t resist librating her from the drudgery in her own particular and clever way. The scene where Jessica crosses a big red line by swimming in the family pool with Fabinho is one of many that nail the nuance and essence of the class system at its most pathetic. Barbara insists on the pool boy draining the pool to wash away Jessica’s class discretion. As an upper working - class lad myself the one thing I did learn is your betters do respect articulation and brains and if you have those then they will give you the time of day. The class gap will always remaining though and a jackboot to the head rather than a helping hand to pull you up only on offer.
It came in at 4 million Brazilian Real’s but did just 5.1m Real’s back (about $1.5m dollars US), shocking for how good this is although I suspect not that many people can afford cinemas in Brazil. This is a film that needs your support and one to look out for on places like Film4. If you can cope wit the subtitles you will enjoy it. But just as much is said between the spoken word through expressions and mannerism in this movie.
Imdb.com – 7.8 /10.0 (8,435votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 96% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 82% critic’s approval
Quite a few.
Quite a few-
A Q& A with cast & crew on stage.
Chicago Reader –‘The characters are so accustomed to keeping up appearances that they can't bring themselves to say what's bugging them. Their interactions may be mild, but the claustrophobic imagery creates the sense of being trapped in a powder keg’.
Empire Magazine –‘Anna Muylaert's close setting cleverly lends itself to broader reflections on tradition, but Casé makes the story sing. Utterly convincing’.
The Sunday Age –‘In Anna Muylaert's domestic drama ... the outcome is small but significant, a well-earned and thought-out riposte via a strong ensemble cast that gives contradictory meaning to the idea of knowing your place’.
Urban Cinefile –‘What I find noteworthy about this film is that you don't fully realise its power until the ending. It subtly unfolds’.
The Mail –‘...less fascinated by the power play and ritual than it is by the people who are inhabiting those roles, and hoping, ever so softly, to transcend them’.
The San Francisco Times –‘Anna Muylaert's carefully composed images provide a cool stage for some hot acting -- all of which manages to be amusingly uplifting rather than sociologically bleak’.
The Patriot Ledger-‘Muylaert's writing is strong and incisive, her shooting style inventive, but the strength of her film rests with Regina Case, the Brazilian superstar who makes her own individual play for Oscar with an unforgettable performance’.
I used to live over the road to the Screen on the Green and visited it on several occasions. This is an old-school cinema with just the one screen (and about 300 seats) and a small stall selling sweets and drinks when you get in there. The Screen shows a variety of films; mainstream, not-so-mainstream, and old classics. The films change from week to week so you can keep an eye on the retro billboard outside.
The seating is slightly staggered but there is not much in the way of leg room - I'm only 5'8" and I didn't have much space. Also, if someone quite tall sits in front of you, you have pretty much had it in terms of the view because the seats are all on the same level (although maybe on a slight downward slope).
The prices are pretty comparable to chain cinemas (or maybe a bit cheaper), however this cinema has a nice feel about it which you don't get in the local Vue. It is a bit like stepping back in time as this cinema has personality. You also get far less riff-raff in this cinema so if you want a more enjoyable experience with no noisy kids then this is the place for you.
Location-wise you couldn't get better; it's a 5 minute walk from Angel tube station, or a 15-minute walk from Highbury and Islington tube. It's also slap-bang in the middle of Angel's bar/restaurant area so you can easily combine dinner and a movie with drinks afterwards.