STUDIO: Oscilloscope
MSRP: $26.99
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
•    Behind the Scenes with the Cast and Crew
•    Storyboarding The Maid
•    Photos from Director Sebastian Silva

The Pitch

Sundance Film Festival favorite The Maid sweeps up awards.

The Humans

Starring: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedon, Mariana Loyola, Alejandro Goic

Co-written and Directed by: Sebastian Silva

The costume-less KISS years were hardest on Gene Simmons.

The Nutshell

Award winning Chilean film The Maid is a small, human drama with subtle humor. A bit overlong but enjoyable, it’s worth a rent.

The Lowdown

Winner of the World Cinema Jury Prize and the Special Jury Prize- Acting at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, The Maid also gained a Best Foreign Film nomination at the Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards 2010 and the Breakthrough Award for lead actress Catalina Sasvedra at the 2009 Gotham Awards. So needless to say, going into it without any hype was unrealistic. From what I had seen of the film- a brief synopsis here, a trailer or clip there, it wasn’t clear how much the film was a drama or how comedic it was meant to be. But the tone, from the first frame, sets a realistic world where both mingle.

The truth was, Toonces could drive, but he wanted to see what would happen if he pretended their car broke down in a forest.

The Maid tells the story of Raquel, who has serviced an upper class Chilean family for the past 20 years, raising their children, cooking their meals, and cleaning up after them all. She grows increasingly disillusioned with the job as she gets older, and rebels any way she can while conversely being overprotective of her work. Each intimate and meticulous task that this maid goes through in her daily routine is shown in great detail, to put us in Raquel’s head. From an early awakening to an annoying alarm clock to showering, putting on the uniform, getting the kids ready for school, dealing with her employers, vacuuming, cooking, et. al, we are slowly walked through each moment. This way of showing us the life of the maid is sometimes a bit too slow, but it truly hits that emotional center to make the audience understand that every day of every week is exactly like this for Raquel, including her birthday. Raquel is an unattractive and depressed person surrounded by a bright home, loving family, and money. As a result, she gets headaches and becomes addicted to pills that ultimately lead to dizzy spells, putting her life at risk.

Each member of the family she cares for has their quirks. Pilar (Claudia Celedon) and Mundo (Alejandro Goic), the parents of the house, are exactly the type of lazy, rich people you may have encountered at work or in your family. The type that takes not having to raise their children or care for the home for granted, because most likely they were raised with nannies as well. They each have weaknesses which they deny; Pilar bends to Raquel’s side too often in a fight, and Mundo likes to be alone in his office building model ships and also golfs too much. There are two younger boys, but The Maid is based on Director Sebastian Silva’s own childhood experiences as a teenager much like Lucas, Raquel’s “favorite” child in the family, who does amateur magic tricks and is nicest to her of anyone in the house. She also has a least favorite, eldest daughter Camila. Much of Raquel’s time is spent taking out passive aggression against her employers when they incense her, and Camila gets the bulk of it. The ways that Raquel lashes out are subtle, to the point where she can deny any wrongdoing. But after 20 years of employ, everyone knows exactly what is really going on. The scenes of Raquel’s lashing out are handled nicely, sometimes making us squirm for all the right reasons. We as an audience know she is doing wrong, and can’t help but be accomplices.

Scene from Austin Powers Shags A Ship (2012).

After Raquel has her first fainting spell, much of the remaining running time involves Raquel dealing with three “assistant” Maids who are supposed to help lighten her load. If the film has a low point, it is the repetition which comes from her getting rid of these women in much the same way time and again. I guess I would be faulting the film if there were any Home Alone-esque methods of disposing of her nemeses, but locking someone out of the house can only be shown so many times before it gets boring. The repetition has a payoff, but by the time we reach it, it loses impact because the proceedings were so slow to get there.

The film finally picks up after the third assistant, Lucy (Mariana Loyola) stands her ground against Raquel, which leads to a satisfying ending. Lucy is a great character who ultimately plays against Raquel so sweetly that you feel the two characters can redeem one another. Where Raquel is tightly wound, Lucy is a free spirit, and she is able to dismantle Raquel’s issues in interesting ways. She is the one person who can bring Raquel, and the audience, out of the home where the vast bulk of the film takes place and show us a much needed world outside of servitude that seems to be slowly killing Raquel.

Being an maid and an ape was a difficult moral quandry. If one was to throw feces, they would have to clean it up. Why then bother throwing feces in the first place?

The Maid deserves its many accolades, but at 94 minutes it still felt a little stretched. Perhaps the failing of the film is the thing that makes it so virtuous, its humanity and attention to detail. For fans of slow, human drama there is a lot to love here. Rent The Maid and catch a film that may have fallen under your radar.

The Package

As with all Oscilloscope releases, this one comes in a cardboard slipcase and fold out packaging. The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and has 5.1 Dolby Surround sound. The picture quality is fine considering the movie was shot on video. There aren’t too many scenes that use your rear speakers, but that’s not the purpose of this film anyway.

The difficulties of living in Escher house.

Special features begin with Behind the Scenes segments following the cast and crew, split up by the star they are following. Running several minutes long each, they come together to show you a fair portrait of the experience of making The Maid, including running through the script, getting direction, having hair and makeup done, and stars consulting with the people they were based on. There is also a quick bit of lead actress Catalina Saavendra finishing the last shot of the movie and the party that ensued on the set. All segments have English subtitles.

Also included is Storyboarding The Maid, a short video that shows the sketches and notebooks of director Sebastian Silva alongside select scenes from the movie they correspond to. The sketches are rough, but then again, so are Martin Scorsese’s. You wouldn’t think this much planning went into a verite-shot film that takes place primarily in a single location, but it could be inspirational to any filmmakers out there. The last bonus is a selection of photos, also from director Silva. There are less than ten that show him as a boy with his own maids, and a few of the production. Also included are trailers for other Oscilloscope releases.

Overall: 7.7 out of 10