Home cinema choice: The Maid (2009)

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Be careful who you let into your home. The struggle for power between masters and servants has been dealt with before, notably in Joseph Losey’s film The Servant. Sebastián Silva’s film focuses on the story of a maid, Raquel who has devoted much of her life to looking after a wealthy, middle class family. The film opens with an awkward birthday celebration when she is asked to join them  at the table for presents and cake (I’m also reminded of the Christmas dinner in Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander when those working below stairs unhappily mix with the family). The family are fond of her but she is clearly not one of them. Raquel has no identity outside of her work as a maid; even on her day off, she shops at expensive boutiques and buys clothes like those worn by her employer. But when she becomes ill and the family call in additional help from outside, Raquel is determined not to let anyone threaten her position and does everything she can to subvert authority. It’s a fascinating study of how dependent the family is upon her and how unable they are to control her outrageous and often hilarious behaviour – there’s a touch of Buñuel in the way the bourgeoisie are ridiculed with humour.

There’s a poignancy too though in seeing how much Raquel has neglected her own life by caring for them – little contact with her mother, no friends or children of her own. The ending is surprising and also touching. With a star turn by Catalina Saavedra as Raquel, this film is highly recommended.

 

 

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