(director/writer: Anna Muylaert; cinematographer: Barbara Alvarez; editor: Karen Harley; music: Vitor Araújo/Fabio Trummer; cast: Regina Case (Val), Lourenco Mutarelli (Dr. Carlos ), Karine Teles (Barbara), Michel Joelsas (Fabinho), Camila Mardila (Jéssica), Helena Albergaria (Edna); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane, Debora Ivanov, Anna Muylaert; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2015-Brazil-in Portuguese with English subtitles)

“A great performance by Regina Case.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A finely observed but schematic relationship/class warfare film. Brazilian writer-director Anna Muylaert (“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”/”Durval Discos“) passionately directs with humor and insight, as she talks about the repercussions over fast-moving changes over class status in modern times, nannies as surrogate moms and class differences that encourage middle-class privilege. The São Paulo family of Dr. Carlos (Lourenco Mutarelli), a man of inherited wealth, and his self-made wife, Barbara (Karine Teles), have engaged the services of the dedicated live-in housekeeper Val (Regina Case) for over a decade. Their son and only child Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), about to enter college and preparing for his entrance exams, warmly considers Val his second mother. The kid’s relationship with his biological parents is much colder. In fact, each family member is friendlier to the housekeeper than to each other.Val’s own daughter, Jessica (Camila Márdila), has lived away from mom while she was employed by the family and have not seen each other in all that time, comes to town and wishes to reunite with mom while studying for her college entrance exams and with big plans to be an architect. Val knows her place, but the brash Jessica could care less. She reworks her living arrangements so that instead of sleeping in her mother’s basement bedroom, with a mattress on the floor, she manages to snag the large guest bedroom upstairs. She even gets Barbara to make her breakfast and the patriarch to flirt with her. Where will all this lead to, is what propels the remainder of the film. As it is a moralistic film about the changing times and what it all means, the pic is too coy about its intentions and fails to make any waves. Unfortunately, even if it is a well-made and pleasant drama, with a great performance by Regina Case, it’s still a very cautious film and only takes small steps across once unapproachable boundaries before quickly retreating to the usual sitcom soap opera nonsense and ends with a whimper instead of a bang.