“The Maid” centers on the life of Raquel (Catalina Saavedra, “Mami Te Amo”), a maid who spent 20 years of her life working for a wealthy family in Chile before entering a bizarre midlife crisis. Because of her age, she’s worried about losing her position with the people she has come to think of as her family. Raquel suffers horrible migraines and has difficulty even lugging the vacuum cleaner up the stairs, but she will stop at nothing to thwart the family’s efforts to get her an assistant maid who could later replace her.
At the Michigan
Raquel’s efforts to maintain her position are rife with dark humor. Half the time, it’s hard to be sure she’s really serious. She disposes of the family cat and tries to frame the other maids. She locks people out of the house and pretends not to hear them yelling for her. At one point, the tension between Raquel and a cranky elderly maid erupts into a violent fistfight. The humor seems almost too much at times — “The Maid” could very easily transform into a horror film about a maid who goes insane.
A combination of the ridiculous and the mundane keeps “The Maid” going. Saavedra is an expert at keeping people guessing. Her face is blank and she rarely smiles, making it hard to know what exactly is going on in her head or what she plans on doing next. The drab appearance of her character makes a perfect foil for her outrageous actions as well as the turmoil going on inside her head.
From the opening scene, it’s obvious Raquel doesn’t belong in the family for which she works. She eats her meals separately from them and sleeps in a sparse, cell-like room in a large, beautiful house. Raquel seems trapped somehow. She has no life outside her work. On her days off, she wanders around, looking lost and out of place.
It would be easy to reduce director Sebastian Silva’s film to a commentary on the cruelties of class structure, but “The Maid” is about more than that. The contrasts between the luxuries Raquel’s employers enjoy and the dull monotony of Raquel’s life are moving, but it’s the isolation that Silva uncovers that’s really striking.
From the father (Alejandro Goic, “Los Secretos”) who has an incomprehensible passion for building miniature ships to the mother’s (Claudia Celdon, “La Vida Me Mata”) oddly symbiotic relationship with Raquel, each character has something that separates them from all the others in the film. It is only through the eyes of Raquel that the fragmented family connections are constructed.
“The Maid” does get repetitive and grim as Raquel disposes of one maid after another. It’s not until Lucy (Mariana Loyola, “Ausente”) appears on the scene that the movie gets revitalized; she’s loud and affectionate and challenges Raquel. When Raquel locks her out of the house, Lucy sunbathes topless on the front lawn rather than chase after her angrily. Despite the dark humor of the earlier part of the film, none of the characters ever laugh — Loyola’s Lucy uncovers the warmth of “The Maid.”