Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Maid

Tonight I screened The Maid, starring Catalina Saavedra and Mariana Loyola.

Raquel (Saavedra) is not someone you'd want to be friends with. As the maid for the Pilar family, she throws away gifts they purchase for her, eats alone (though she's apparently welcome to join them), hides snacks from the children, and accidentally-on-purpose forgets simple instructions when she gets angry with the teenagers.

But this isn't a Cinderella situation. Although the kids can be a little demanding, they're really not so bad and their parents (her bosses) treat her exceptionally well. It seems Raquel is just burnt out—she's been working in the same home all of her adult life and never learned how to have fun. Her cooking and cleaning routine is so robotic, just watching her execute it makes you tired.

When she starts having headaches and exhibits signs of dizziness, the Pilars think it's time to bring in some additional staff. Raquel mistakes these extra ladies as a threat and does everything in her power to drive them away.

These scenes are at once sad and comical because she really is awful to everyone, but you can't help but empathize with her. Raquel's life—by her own design—is confined to one room of a house, which contains a twin bed, a small nightstand and one tiny photo album of snapshots. All of the pictures we see in the album are of Raquel and the Pilar family. Aside from a phone call from her mother on her birthday, we see no evidence that Raquel has a family of her own.

But even in the photographs, we're witnessing the past. It seems that over time Raquel's connections to other human beings got lost in the shuffle and she has no idea how to regain them.

Enter Lucy (Loyola)—a sprite of a woman who moves in when Raquel is deemed too ill to continue her duties. Lucy is loud, frank, honest and most importantly: she's not afraid of Raquel. It seems The Maid has met her match.

What transpires is both shocking and delightful in equal measure, and nearly every character in the film (except for Dad, whose only purpose seems to be building model ships) is made to be more endearing as a result. The performances of the leading ladies especially, should be commended.

The film will keep you entertained and interested throughout no matter how well you do or don't relate to its characters. And for those who have ever had times of isolation or loneliness, you may just find yourself choking back tears.


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