A relatable level of humour, in the most mundane situations, courses through ‘Daughter from Another Mother,’ Netflix’s latest original series from Mexico. The screenplay itself is full of astute observation of emotions from a variety of characters. It is one of those rare shows that manages to be sentimental without being schmaltzy, and still portray the creation of an unlikely family where people learn about their own bitter truths and grow together.
What is the story about?
From the title itself, it’s not a very exciting premise. Even the trailer would suggest a simple “switched at birth” comedy. Those have been done to death for the American audience at least, ranging from the kids growing up and seeking out their biological families in their teenhood, or a melodrama full of untimely custody battles. Let me assure you, that ‘Daughter from Another Mother’ uses this predictable premise only as a base to build on a fresh story about coming-of-age and family. Ana and Mariana are both women with unplanned pregnancies - the former is a high-power executive who is on her third child with rich hubby Juan Carlos, and the latter is a young student and app developer who is expecting a baby out of wedlock with her former boyfriend. Ana takes home Regina and Mariana takes home Valentina, at least that’s what they think. But just four months in, the two mothers are informed of the hospital’s mix-up, and in an effort to wean their own daughters from the other mother, they create their own modern family, one where Mariana moves in with Ana and the whole family.
At 40 minutes per episode, and 9 episodes this first season, ‘Daughter from Another Mother’ is smart comedy writing in the way it uses Ana and Mariana’s obvious differences to invoke the laughs initially, but somewhere towards the middle of the season, the two women become each other’s supports helping to work upon the other’s weaknesses, thus becoming better human beings and hence, better mothers to their children. One of Mariana’s obvious reasons to move in with Ana is her lower socioeconomic status and single motherhood. Mariana shares a somewhat strained relationship with her own mother (who also had her out of wedlock) and is understanding how to handle the dynamic between her newborn baby and the now present baby-daddy who wants to be more involved. In a strange way, Ana grows affectionate with Mariana and gives her the stable home that she never had. In return, Mariana helps Ana to loosen up and have fun.
If you feel this getting a bit too serious, the clashing personalities of the two mothers is a major source for comedy as well. Ana is an extremely stoic overachieving workaholic, who times the number of times and the duration of the hugs that she can give her daughter. There are ‘house rules’ which, according to the housemaid, amount to only one rule - Ana makes the rules. Everything about her and around her has to be perfect. But she also deals with systemic sexism at her workplace. Mariana is still developing her true personality, experimenting with her sexuality and trying to find her real father, all the while dealing with constant betrayal from people she trusts. All the conflict is extremely real and handled in a way that regular people would, making and admitting to their mistakes, hopefully making light of it, and then carrying on.
Each character on ‘Daughter from Another Mother’ is etched well, and this is enhanced by some genuinely winsome performances. There are smaller but equally warm and wonderful characters like Javier Ponce playing the newbie baby-daddy Pablo, Oka Giner as Mariana’s part-time lover and full-time friend Elena, Liz Gallardo as Mariana’s mum, the strong-willed Tere, and most importantly, Martin Altomaro as the affectionate, supportive and often exasperated Juan Carlos. And this ensemble cast ably supports Paulina Goto as the young and scrappy Mariana. The actor who has the maximum weight on her shoulders but also carries it off with immense ease and panache is Ludwika Paleta. Ana is ambitious, skilled, and talented at work, and sometimes, she runs her home like her office. But she is also driven enough to go to any lengths to just see her daughter smile. The core theme of the show is that the “babies should be our priority” and Ana takes some typical and some uncharacteristic steps in that direction. Her growth is the most heartening and funny.
Music & Other Departments
The show has great production value and is at par with most major Netflix shows. It also has a wonderful pop-rock-indie mix Spanish soundtrack which you will be sure to Shazam and make into a playlist.
‘Daughter from Another Mother' is a well-written and moving dramedy about parenting (kinda) but not about parental burnout (which seems to be so popular in the sitcom circuit these days). It’s about how familial bonds can be formed beyond biological connections. Every actor gets their moment in the sun, even in the smallest of roles. It’s a good comedy series in the way it balances jokes with emotional gravitas and realistic characters.
The telenovela format is popular in Mexico where the audience consumes most stories, genre notwithstanding, in a running soap style. Each episode is connected and the shows run for a few hundred episodes and reach a quick conclusion. Netflix has adapted what is perhaps meant for a telenovela audience into a season format, ideally for binge-watching. The writing and pacing of ‘Daughter from Another Mother’ is more telenovela and less binge-sitcom. This may be a hindrance to ideal viewing.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes! This is was a pleasant surprise and I eagerly await season 2.
Do I recommend it?
Yes! The show is witty and warm and celebrates its characters’ idiosyncrasies. I’m all for it.