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The Maid (DVD)

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Actors: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedon, Mariana Loyola / Director: Sebastien Silva / Studio: Artificial Eye / Release Date: 8 Nov 2010 / Run Time: 91 minutes

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      11.10.2012 16:03
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      A very different foreign comedy

      Certificate - 15
      Run Time - 95 minutes
      Country - Chile (subtitles)
      Genre - Drama
      Awards - 27 Wins and one Golden Globe nomination.
      =======================================


      For many wealthy families a maid, or the nanny, as they are known here, is someone the wife allows the husband to secretly flirt with or peep on to get his thrills so he doesn't divorce her and she can remain a lady of leisure because the maid does all the housework and looks after the kids in between the gropes. But for many South and Central Americans a life of servitude is quite normal and they often grow attached to their host families, the emotional heart of La Nana (The Maid), this award winning Chilean film.

      My experience of maids and staff was working as a night watchmen/barman in a hotel in South Africa and almost every white person I met there had housekeeping staff. My boss alone had three people working for him at his rather large home in Cape Town. They didn't treat them badly or anything and there was clearly a mutual respect between the two, and more than the suggestion that they only really employ them because they want the blacks to have work in their own country. It's an interesting dynamic to observe, again what La Nana tries to get to grips with. I could not ever imagine a situation where if I was rich I would employ staff. It's such a cruel and borzois thing to do.

      Although this film is set in Chile I suspect it's the norm around the world for the husbands to make a pass at their maids at some point and the wives to get jealous if the maid or nanny is cute and why the maid turnover is so high, the chemistry and trust between staff and employee somewhat critical to the arrangement. There is no sexual harassment in this story though, the maid only employed because she is so plain, one suspects.



      = = = Cast = = =

      Catalina Saavedra ... Raquel
      Claudia Celedón ... Pilar
      Alejandro Goic ... Mundo
      Andrea García-Huidobro ... Camila
      Mariana Loyola ... Lucy
      Agustín Silva ... Lucas
      Darok Orellana ... Tomás
      Sebastián La Rivera ... Gabriel
      Mercedes Villanueva ... Mercedes
      Anita Reeves ... Sonia
      Delfina Guzmán ... Abuela
      Luis Dubó ... Eric
      Luis Muñoz ... Raúl
      Andreína Olivarí ... Javiera

      = = = The Plot = = =

      Plain and slightly gormless Raquel (Catalina Saavedra) has been in servitude with the Valdes family of Santiago for most of her adult working life, treating them with absolute respect and loyalty. Now aged 41 the kids are all in their teens and the house as big as ever and two floors of hustle and bustle. But of late she has been having dizzy spells and after 23 years on the job, Pilar, Mrs Valdes (Claudia Celedón), feels the maid needs some help, Raquel finally collapsing on the job, her OCD use of cleaning fluid the toxins giving her the headaches and blackouts as everything is religiously scrubbed and cleaned to chase work to keep her job.

      Although the younger kids and family are still supportive and loving with Raquel, older daughter Gabriel (Sebastián La Rivera) isn't, the most spoilt of the bunch and wants a new younger maid for company and so always bitching on her. Dad Mondo (Alejandro Goic) is not fussed either way and obsessed with his mini model boat building.

      Raquel now fears for her job when the extra help arrives in the form of young and pretty Mercedes (Mercedes Villanueva), the girl from Peru immediately getting on with the kids, so much so Raquel terrorizes her when the family are out and so she soon leaves, any other maid who Pilar tries to bring into help Raquel getting the same treatment.

      So enter bubbly Camilla (Andrea García-Huidobro), nearer Raquel's age and determined the two get on, tears soon flowing between them as their friendship grows. But Camilla not only brings friendship but realization that there is life beyond the Valdes house and that's really where Raquel's heartache lies, getting high on Dettol not the only escapism on offer in a life of servitude.


      = = = Result = = =

      Heavily celebrated in Latin America after those 27 film awards around the world it's certainly a film worth considering if you like world cinema. It's enjoyable enough and a 'dromedy' (drama-comedy) of sorts that will engage through out although no belly laughs on offer, a more observant type of subtle comedy. House service in-jokes come thick and fast and probably its biggest appeal and audience. You can imagine all the maids on their dates with their boyfriends south of Las Vegas nodding away with a sly smile to this film and miserable Raquel's experiences.

      Director Sebastián Silva's biggest achievement here is presenting this film as a microcosm of Latin social hierarchy; ho families move north to America though the conduit of service to wealthy Americans. It's an unspoken truth that Mexicans and the Latin like have replaced the positions black cheap labor once held in America's affluent class's houses.

      The other dynamic of the film focuses on one woman's journey to free her self from a mental servitude through that loyalty to the rich and pampered that sue depends on for security. Although Raquel is part of the family they always shut the door on her at family mealtimes, maid etiquette to remind them this is employment, a moment of loneliness in the film all maids recognize.

      Catalina Saavedra is great in the deadpan lead role, almost like one of Little Britain's characters, too tired to smile, too locked in emotionally to confront her problems, catching flies with her open mouth realization of her wasted life. The film, on the hand, sends up both sides of the staff and family aspect and doesn't take sides on her plight and so more appealing than you think. Subtitles aside this is top end stuff and hard to pigeon hole, which is always a good thing when watching film.




      = = = Ratings = = =
      Imdb.com scores it 7.3/10 (2,835 votes)
      Rottentomatoes.com scores it 84% critics approval rating
      Metacritc.com scores it 79%crtics approval rating



      = = = Critics = = =

      Film4 -'Sits compellingly between genres'.
      The Film Review -'Does a fine job of building expectations and then turning them sideways'.

      The Guardian - 'Sebastián Silva's second feature is an exceptional study of the emotional investment that domestics make in the families they serve'.

      The Baltimore Sun -'The Maid has that particular gift of leaving you off balance in the best possible way, and whenever something like that comes around you owe it to yourself to check it out'.

      The Melbourne Age -'Deadpan, handheld technique allows director Sebastián Silva to mine mundane situations for subtle hazard but also to take his story in unexpected directions, initial reticence preserving the potential for surprise'.

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