Judge Franck Tabouring is a master when it comes cleaning his bathtub, but that's it.
Our review of The Maid (2005), published October 12th, 2006, is also available.
She's more or less family.
Winner of two awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Sebastian Silva's critically acclaimed Chilean drama The Maid is now finally available on DVD, and if you haven't had the pleasure yet to explore this magnificent foreign gem of a movie, now is your chance. Combining delicious humor and poignant drama with outstanding acting and great attention to detail, The Maid instantly captures your full attention and refuses to let go of it long after you're done watching. In fact, it's the kind of movie that gets better the more you think about it.
Facts of the Case
In what is undoubtedly one of the best performances I've recently seen, Catalina Saavedra plays Raquel, a devoted live-in maid who's been working for the same upper-class Chilean family for more than twenty years. Raquel handles pretty much everything to keep the household running without any major troubles, but as much as she tries to hide it, her age and the increasing number of headaches are making it harder and harder for her to deal with all her chores. Refusing to let Raquel go, the family's matriarch Pilar (Claudia Celedon) tries to solve the issue by hiring some extra help, but what she doesn't know at that point is that her decision will only cause more trouble.
To tell you the truth, I rarely encounter a foreign film that has this big of an impact on me. It's not that I can personally relate to the story or the characters of The Maid, but what fully pulled me into the world Silva created onscreen is the marvelous execution of a fantastic script. Silva definitely knows what he's doing from start to finish, and his intentions in this movie couldn't be clearer or more intriguing. With The Maid, he has created an important film that thoroughly examines the values of humanity as well as the importance of family and the differences between different social classes in his home country of Chile.
Watching Raquel's character developing during the film's 94-minute running time is an utterly compelling experience. Her actions make us love and hate her at the same time, and the deeper we get to peek inside her head and soul, the easier it is for us to understand where she is coming from. You see, even though she's worked for Pilar for more than two decades, it hardly feels she's part of the family. She's eating dinner by herself in the kitchen, and she still displays feelings of intimidation in presence of her employers. She doesn't have a particularly solid relationship with Pilar's daughter, and, even though she likes the boys, she still keeps her distance.
The real conflict of the movie kicks off when Pilar hires help. Afraid of losing the family she herself never really had, Raquel starts to quietly revolt by making the new maids feel as uncomfortable as she can. In fact, she even turns into a real monster, a side we as viewers would never expect. This is one of Silva's strengths when it comes to his writing. The Maid is a totally unpredictable movie, and he never ceases to surprise us with sudden, realistic twists and abrupt changes in Raquel's behavior and attitude. As the movie progresses we slowly get to understand the motivation behind her actions. To tell you the truth, I couldn't think of a better way for Silva to handle his main character.
Despite the dramatic elements, The Maid also boasts a solid dose of delicious dark humor, which shows in particular via the different ways Raquel deals with the new maids. I'm not going into more detail because I don't want to spoil it for you, but you better be prepared for some hilarious moments. Silva's efforts as director are top-notch throughout, and so are those of Sergio Armstrong, his cinematographer. In fact, the movie benefits from superb production values, which further raise the overall quality of the production. The film's strongest point is obviously the marvelous acting. Saavedra's performance as Raquel is as natural and convincing as a role in this genre can be, and the supporting cast shines as well. If anything, the acting deserves most of your attention; it's fantastic.
On DVD, The Maid looks great. The disc is packed with a clean 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, and it boasts both a sharp picture quality and flawless audio transfer. In terms of special features, the DVD includes a collection of still photos, an interesting piece on Silva's storyboarding, and a very informative behind-the-scenes look that features footage from the set as well as a bunch of cool interviews with cast and crew.
I could go on and on about how brilliant The Maid is, but I rather have you experience it for yourself. The film has bagged a bunch of awards during its festival run last year, but it's a real shame it didn't show up at the Oscars. It's an extraordinary foreign feature with strong character development and a meaningful plot, and it deserves all the success it's had so far. A must-see.
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