Slough Cooperative Film Society Slough Cooperative Film Society

The Society has been showing the best of world and independent cinema in Slough for more than 60 years



Chile/Mexico, 2008 96 mins


Catalina Saavedra


Sebastián Silva

Pilar Valdez


Claudia Celédon

Mariana Loyola


Sebastián Silva, Pedro Peirano


Andrea Garcia-Huidobro


Sergio Armstrong


Alejandro Goic


Danielle Filios


Agustin Silva



Sebastián Silva's film is an unexpected combination: a gripping psychological thriller, and also a poignant human drama. It really is edge-of-the-seat stuff, with a startling denouement, and an outstanding central performance from Catalina Saavedra. She plays Raquel, the live-in uniformed maid, working for a well-to-do family in Santiago, Chile, in a handsome house with a pool, attending to the needs of the master and mistress along with their lively teenage children. She must also show respect to the children's very haughty and patrician grandmother, who comes to visit and does not hesitate to give her views on how the household should be run.

Raquel is treated as one of the family – that is, like a tiresome, but affectionately regarded cousin or poor relation – and the film opens with an uneasy and embarrassing birthday celebration that the children's mother Pilar (Claudia Celedón) insists on organising for her. Poor Raquel is now 41, with no man or children of her own, and at an age at which she might be wondering if she has wasted her life in the service of people who don't care about her. Silva cranks up the tension as the atmosphere becomes more oppressive and dysfunctional. Raquel becomes more needy and resentful, more bad-tempered, affecting selective deafness when she does not want to hear an instruction. She has headaches and fainting spells, and when her employers timidly suggest a secondary maid to help her with the chores, Raquel begins a sociopathic guerrilla war against the unfortunate new arrival and against the family itself.

The maid, in her uniform, is traditionally an ambiguous figure: a key player in her own secret theatre of power. She is intimate with authority, but emphatically beneath it, yet also conversely capable, in her very silent submission, of accumulating unspoken grievances with years of service and so increasingly menacing her employer with suggestions of some imminent uprising or unthinkable transgression. Silva's movie draws on the dark, erotic language of Buñuel, Genet and Losey, and it has something of Hollywood thrillers such as ... Fatal Attraction, together with Michael Haneke's icily parodic slant on this genre. But there is another strand to The Maid: a gentler, unalienated strand that invites the audience to recognise the servant's vulnerability …

Saavedra's portrayal is scary yet subtle, nuanced, and she appears almost to change physically with shifts in her character's mood. We can see the old woman that she is growing into, together with the shy girlish figure who first entered the family's service. It is a great star performance, reason enough on its own for seeing this.

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The Maid