This film tells us the story of Val, a hard working live-in housekeeper of the rich and famous of São Paulo. The movie reveals the unspoken agony of lower class to stand up for their rights against the “untouchable” and spoilt upper class attitude. It reveals the fragile family dynamics for both upper and lower Brazilian classes as they are transformed by the absence of rigid family bonds due to parental absence, for different reasons each one. The film also uses a striking comparative approach of same age but different class characters referring to Jessica (Val’s daughter) and Fabinho (the rich only child).
Brazilian writer and director Anna Muylaert portrays housekeeper Val from her own memories as a child taken care by nannies and later on as a mother who was persuaded by her social cycle (!) to bring a full time caretaker for her child. Of course ironically, this is also the reason why we all can enjoy her brilliant films today.
“Que horas ela volta” literary translated as “When will she be back” refers to young Fabinho’s question to Val at the beginning of the film, implying the constant-failure-to-attend-anything attitude of his famous mother. As the movie progresses we find out that it is the same question that was constantly asked by Jessica- Val’s daughter- to the woman who was taking care of her at the village during Val’s never ending absence. In this way the film avoids to crucify the upper-class habits of child caring, making ground for a rather modern all class necessity. On the other hand it insists on questioning “what makes a good mother” anyway.
Finally the film makes clear that when it comes to emotional problems the rich resemble the poor and that wealth, fame and power, are no insurance against life’s pains. Although they can bring you a “Val” to take care of your toddler, giving you time to write the script for your next movie…But then again, my mother used to tell me that there is a greek saying that goes “The worst grandmother is the best nanny money can ever buy”…