Dir. Sebastian Silva
THE MAID (La Nana) is a Chilean film about a maid, Raquel (Catalina Saavedra), the faithful servant, cleaner, nanny, and more-or-less family member of a wealthy Santiago family. Raquel is getting on in her years. Not senior by any means, but getting older, and is developing slight health troubles. Despite Raquel's insistence, the matriarch of the family, Pilar (Claudia Celedon) decides it is probably time to hire a second woman to assist Raquel with her duties. The trouble is, Raquel has been with the family for 23 years, and when an outsider comes in, Raquel is determined to hold on to both her position as an employee, but also as a pseudo member of the family. She has dedicated so much of her life to raising the children in the family, and cooking and cleaning for everyone, she has a vested interest (not least an emotional one) of remaining the sole caretaker. So when a new young woman is hired, Raquel gets territorial and fierce. It is a funny, if not slightly darkly comic, film that ultimately is quite endearing. Here are a few things I liked about it.
1. Catalina Saavedra as the maid. She is great to watch. Raquel the maid is so dedicated to the family and the house, it is kind of reminscent of that other film about domestic servitude, the fantastic THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. It is a fascinating concept to me of that an employee, who despite not actually being a member of the family, knows more about the house, the procedures, the policies, and indeed about the family members than anyone else. Raquel is one such person, who's life has become their life. She moves around the house with comfort and confidence; it is her domain, and even though she didn't pay for it, in her own way she has command over it. Saavedra's performance is wonderful, balancing Raquel's concern for herself with that of her responsibility to her employer. She barely cracks a smile, but her face reveals so much about the feelings of her life choices of living with a pseudo-family. She accepts her life of almost complete self-sacrifice to keep a modern family on the go, even if some of them may be completely ungrateful.
2. Have you ever seen a film from Chile? I hadn't! Another great reminder of the wonderful cinema that lies beyond the borders of North America. It was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2010 Golden Globes, and it won both Grand Jury and Special Jury prizes at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, for both director Sebastian Silva and actress Catalina Saavedra, and received many other international accolades.
3. It's an interesting glimpse inside contemporary South America, and the wealth disparity that continues to exist down there. Without much of a middle-class, the lower class often work in direct servitude to the upper class. But this is a look at a family that has bridged the class differences by having Raquel in their house as more than just an employee.
Bonus thing: Mariana Loyola as Lucy. Her delicate performance as Lucy is so sweet to watch as she patiently tries to get to know Raquel and open her up to friendship.
Go find this at your local video store!