The Chambermaid

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Chambermaid
"This is a quiet movie, which never loses its focus on its central character study, while allowing points about economic and social inequalities to sound out loud and clear." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Hotels are a perfect setting for drama, each room opening into a different world in miniature. Travelling between these disparate places in - simultaneously mere feet and miles apart - is single mum Eve (Gabriela Cartol), a chambermaid who we'll discover sometimes also views these spaces as doorways to other potential versions of herself.

Debut feature director Lila Avilés, like her protagonist, doesn't have time to waste, quickly immersing us in Eve's daily grind. Carlos Rossini's unfussy but distinctive camerawork, instead of tracking her every move allows her to move in and out of shot as we gain a strong sense of the exertion and effort needed to clean and ready a room in double-quick time, its unusual angles emphasising the oddness of moving between the lives of people often glimpsed only in passing, if at all, or imagined via the exotic contents of their bins.

Copy picture

Some of the rooms in this Mexican skyscraper hold situations ripe for dead pan comedy or knife-edge tension, while others simply illustrate the class system in operation, where those with the right amount of money can set people like Eve pointless tasks such as replenishing loo roll, simply because they like the power kick of it.

Eve is literally trying to work her way up - to the plush 42nd floor - while also burning the candle at both ends as she attends classes provided by her union. Notably, she's reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a fable about searching for a higher purpose and betterment, although like everything in this film, Avilés treats this metaphor lightly. Eve has a life outside of the tower - but is mainly connected to it via brief phone calls - with the job her main driver. Even a potential improvement in her love life plays out within one of the hotels rooms, where she remains, paradoxically, alone.

Avilés allows a her picture to develop gradually, as we get a sense of the side commerce and systems in place that keep the hotel running, from Tupperware and hand cream sales to the promise held by a forgotten red dress that Eve hopes will soon be relinquished to her by lost property. Cartol's measured performance, meanwhile, contrasts beautifully with the much more flamboyant display by Teresa Sánchez as Eve's joking fellow maid Minitoy.

This is a quiet movie, which never loses its focus on its central character study, while allowing points about economic and social inequalities to sound out loud and clear.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2018
Share this with others on...
The Chambermaid packshot
Character study of a maid in a Mexican hotel.

Director: Lila Avilés

Writer: Lila Avilés, Juan Carlos Marquéz

Starring: Gabriela Cartol, Teresa Sánchez, Gabriela Cartol, Teresa Sánchez

Year: 2018

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: Mexico, US


Search database: