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Friday, November 13, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW
The Maid (La Nana)

House Calls And Marriages Not “Maid” In Heaven


Catalina Saavedra as Raquel in Sebastian Silva's "The Maid" (La Nana), which opened in San Francisco today.
Elephant Eye Films

By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, November 13, 2009

Sebastián Silva directs an initially unassuming film with “The Maid” (La Nana), which through its protagonist Raquel (well-acted by Catalina Saavedra) shows its hand, gradually unfurling into an unsettling experience.  For all the chills and thrills provided by recent films like "Paranormal Activity", "The Maid" is more a horror film than the genteel sitcom-type movie its surface shows.  Set in Chile, the film follows the lonely and sad life of Raquel (Ms. Saavedra), a 40-something houseworker who has toiled away for 23 years at an upper-middle class family's home and has little to show for it other than occasional dizzy spells and migraine headaches.

Raquel is appreciated but with all the benign neglect and condescension that an emotionally truncated and gleefully elitist household can muster.  Shunted almost into obscurity on her birthday, Raquel often gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment.  Her most ardent defender is the family's flighty matriarch Pilar Valdez (Claudia Celedon), an apologist for any bizarre behavior Raquel exhibits.  Let's face it, Raquel has her bad days, as do we all, and those bad days pile up when several new maids arrive to alleviate some of the heavy burdens of housecleaning that affect Raquel, who has a barely tangible relationship with her own family whom we never see.

And it's what we don't see or what is implied that makes this quitely triumphant film as gripping as ever.  Mr. Silva, who wrote the screenplay with Pedro Peirano, avoids making his film about a family who is changed as a result of Raquel's presence.  "The Maid" shines because it is a well-layered character study of a woman who has literally watched life pass her by and waits for it to be over.  Mostly eschewing farce, "The Maid", which opened today in San Francisco at the Embarcadero Center Cinema, also resists calls for pity or outrage, even as an audience's patience is tried with Raquel. 

"The Maid" may be a statement about the family that has kept a depressed woman as a servant in their home for so long.  With secrets of a household probably far more dysfunctional than Raquel ever could be, how can the Valdez family possibly be content and happy with themselves?  (Imagine if there was a maid who could be hired to clean the souls of the Valdez clan.)

With that said, Mr. Silva ups the comedy ante of "The Maid' even as the situations become more alarming than amusing.  His cameras capture the sad, solitary silences of Raquel, who as played by Ms. Saavedra makes her character most powerful in her quiet, minimalist moments and gestures.  Isolated, putting on the same too-small maid uniform each day, Raquel says hardly anything for much of this tense and funny film, but there's proof in the pudding: that actions speak much louder and more profoundly than words.


With: Alejandro Goic, Andrea Garcia-Huidobro, Mariana Loyola, Agustín Silva, Darok Orellana, Sebastián La Rivera, Mercedes Villanueva, Anita Reeves and Delfina Guzman.

“The Maid” (La Nana) is not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.  The film’s running time is one hour and 35 minutes.  In Spanish language with English language subtitles.

Read more movie reviews and stories from Omar here

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