The Maid

For more than 20 years, Raquel (Catalina Saavedra) has worked as the hired help for an upper-class Santiago family, whom she has served with the dedication of a novitiate. But as Raquel celebrates her 41st birthday, her labors have taken their Sisyphean toll. So the Valdezes propose hiring a second maid to relieve Raquel of some responsibilities, which she, in turn, takes as a declaration of war. One by one the reinforcements arrive, only to brush up against the full force of Raquel’s passive aggression, until perky Lucy (Mariana Loyola) shows up on the scene and proves either immune to Raquel’s offensives or, perhaps, a little bit crazy herself. The Remains of the Day as reimagined by a budding Luis Buñuel (30-year-old director Sebastián Silva), The Maid is neither a crude lampoon of domestic servitude nor a knee-jerk skewering of the bourgeoisie, deftly shifting its point of view from downstairs to upstairs and back again, always keeping us off-balance as to where—if anywhere—its sympathies lie. In a remarkable performance that won her a special award from the world cinema jury at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (which also gave Silva’s film its Grand Jury Prize), Saavedra goes through one of the most uncanny psychophysical transformations I’ve ever seen in a movie: She starts out as a troll-like presence, hunched over and turned in on herself, and then, as Lucy enters her life, she straightens and brightens, untangles her hair, and even goes for a jog.
Nov. 13-19, 2009

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