The Maid – Movie Review
After 23 years of service to the Valdes family, Raquel is comfortably ensconced in a vague existence between maid and her illusion that she is a family member. Her barely concealed bitterness and increased clashes with her employer’s eldest daughter lead the family to think she is overworked. They hire more help, and, feeling usurped, Raquel begins to sabotage each new employee by resorting to childish antics, clinging to her ambiguous place within the family. In his remarkably astute second feature, Sebastian Silva questions, without bias, a dusty remnant of class division—the common, Latin American, aristocratic tradition of serfdom. Within this complex dynamic, we are privy to the inner workings of a well-intentioned family’s relationship with their servant—however endearingly the word is used. Silva wields his handheld camera like a magnifying glass, revealing Raquel’s fenced-in fragility, and watching her evolve is truly touching. Astonishing in its intimacy, the film wrings awkward humor from the alienated Raquel’s mind games. Only Lucy, last in the line of new maids, is able to nudge Raquel gently toward the momentous kick-start needed to rediscover herself. Sebastian Silva’s hungry curiosity to examine the intersection of social and personal forces produces a painful, yet satisfying, comedic drama that shakes up and humanizes an insidious system.
The Maid is in Spanish. It won the Sundance World Cinema for jury prize for acting, and is legitimately so. It is one of the most ego-less — I’m not even sure that’s a word — examples of acting I’ve ever seen. The actress, Catalina Saavedra, who plays a maid to a well to do Spanish family in the film, plays it completely without ego. Watching the film, you see that she has nothing in her life except this family that she swears loves her, and may or may not. When the family decides that she’s getting older and really needs to have some help, they hire additional employees to work alongside her. What we see is how resistant she is to putting anybody else into her world and how selfish she is about hanging on to what she’s got – which is certainly not all that unusual. Finally, when somebody actually does crack her shell, we see what happens. So it’s really a movie of lovely acting. Whether or not you care much about the movie depends on your tolerance for interior stories as opposed to car chases or things blowing up. I liked it. Three stars.