The Maid (2009, 95 min, dir: Sebastian Silva, cast: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedon, Anita Reeves, Mariana Loyola).
Hattie McDaniel said “Better to play a maid than be a maid” and this applies to Catalina Saavedra as well. She acts the part of Raquel, the maid to a family of wealthy Chileans who seem to play all the time and fret about having breakfast ready in bed.
Catalina has actually played several maid roles through her career on Chilean television. Which leads to the question nobody wants to ask: what is the future for an actress with a dumpy body and Indian features in a culture that worships light skin and curves like Blanca Lewin (if you want to see all her curves watch En la Cama on MovieWithMe).
The answer doesn’t need to be said. The class divides of many South American countries make The Maid both a contemplation on the career of this very talented actress as well as the lives of the upper classes.
Pilar, the mother of the family (Claudia Celedon) keeps her brood together and manages meals and household chores (all done by servants). Her husband is a cheerful academic who goes to his study each night to build model ships. It is a perfect expression of the idle rich that director Sebastian Silva is portraying for us. In fact, this first feature of Silva is based on his experience growing up in just the type of family portrayed here.
Perhaps his path to filmmaking is echoed in the storyline. Raquel sabotages attempts by the family to install a new maid. Sonia (Anita Reeves) is locked out of the house and has to crawl over the roof. But third maid Lucy (Mariana Loyola) is a free spirit who rises above Raquel’s wrath to show her the path toward personal empowerment.
It’s a small step but enough to free Raquel from belonging to a family that will never have her as a member and start searching for small joys and pleasures that can bring her some fulfillment of her own. That’s the message of The Maid, and it is a good one.