Welcome to the life of Raquel (Saavedra), a 41-year-old live-in domestic who is eking out a joyless existence on the fringes of the family she has worked for for many years.

Yet, much like a prostitute, Raquel does not want any other girls on her block. When the mistress of the house, Pilar, worried that Raquel is overworked, offers to hire another maid, Raquel insists further help is not required. When she faints on the stairs, a martyr to severe headaches, Pilar does, indeed, hire another maid. Raquel, not used to asserting herself, retreats into a form of passive aggression that has blackly comic results. She quickly dispatches a very young Peruvian maid and an older, more experienced housekeeper with what becomes her signature form of torture: sending the new maid out to pay the grocer and then locking her out and pretending not to hear.

Finally, Raquel's ill health becomes too much and while she is recuperating, Pilar hires the bubbly, fun-loving Lucy (Loyola). Lucy, a cheerful and slightly outrageous personality, soon overcomes Raquel's hostility - most memorably by deciding to sunbathe nude on the front lawn when Raquel locks her out of the house. The two maids are soon friends and Raquel breaks with years of tradition, disengaging herself from the family's Christmas celebrations to spend the holidays with Lucy's family.

Catalina Saavedra gives a wonderful performance as the frustrated Raquel, a woman who has devoted all her adult life to caring for this family. This tension is played out in the ways she dotes on the sons and resents and denies the daughter and the way she tries to maintain control of disciplining the children, even from their mother. The film opens with the family offering Raquel a birthday cake and presents, which clearly both please and embarrass her - as an employee, she is not really part of the family. Mariana Loyola as Lucy introduces a much needed breath of modernity into Raquel's life and her influence proves lasting. A warm mix of black comedy and heartfelt family drama.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2009
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The Maid packshot
A servant goes to extreme lengths to stay with the family she's obsessed with - and to get rid of the competition.
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Director: Sebastián Silva

Writer: Sebastián Silva, Pedro Peirano

Starring: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedón, Mariana Loyola, Alejandro Goic, Anita Reeves, Del?na Guzmán

Year: 2008

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Chile

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