The Maid

A terrific character study starring Catalina Saavedra as Raquel, the live-in domestic servant for a rich but likable family in Santiago, Chile. Recently turning 41, and having been in the employ of the family for twenty years, Raquel is becoming like an old cat: possessive, territorial, and very, very grumpy. She even picks and chooses which of the four kids to be nice to and which – namely, the eldest daughter – to be nasty to.

When Raquel starts suffering physically from stress and overwork – and, perhaps more so, from an unfulfilled life spent in servitude to others – she is told that the family will hire an extra servant to help her with her duties. It is news she does not welcome.

In fact, Raquel exhibits such a cruel streak that for the first hour of the film, it's hard to tell whether we're watching a human drama about a woman finding herself, or a psychological thriller about an emotionally unstable person about to crack.

I won't give anything away, but suffice to say that there are lots of little surprises in Silva's refreshingly humanistic film, reportedly inspired by his family's own maid. (Silva's own background may be why the wealthy family in the film is depicted as a decent if imperfect bunch; there are no proletariat messages in this film.) The handheld video look adds an intimacy to this small movie, letting realistic performances by the entire cast stand out.

I could find nothing wrong with The Maid. It's an honest, engaging, and totally satisfying film.