DVD Review: ‘The Maid’ a brilliant blend of humor, tragedy and pityDuluth-based film critic Marcus Jahn takes a look at Sebastián Silva’s “La Nana (The Maid).”
By: Marcus Jahn, Budgeteer News
“La Nana” (or “The Maid”) is a simple and yet highly powerful film by Sebastián Silva. It follows the stern and stubborn Chilean maid Raquel during a time when she can no longer deal with her reality.
The film, which was released by Elephant Eye Films, begins with a birthday party held for Raquel by the family she serves. Raquel knows that it’s going on, but she prefers to eat alone in the kitchen. This sets the theme for what is to come throughout the rest of the film.
The family realizes that Raquel is getting weak and tries to hire new maids to help her out. Raquel is extremely troubled by this, and does everything she can to get rid of each of these maids. She locks them outside, frames them and insults them by disinfecting their showers every time they are used.
Throughout the first two acts of the film, Raquel is despicable and extremely unlikable, and yet the audience still greatly pities her. She is like a child in the way she doesn’t know how to handle situations maturely. She seems constantly lost and depressed with her blank and vacant eyes. There are several scenes where you can all but read her mind: “What have I become?”
The plot of “The Maid” is all about the different relationships Raquel has with the other characters. She is loyal toward the man and wife of the household and wants to serve them well. She takes a strong liking to the adolescent son, which can a bit unsettling at times for the audience. Her relationship with the eldest daughter is extremely strained. Raquel goes as far as to scribble out her face in all of the pictures where they are together (another immature way to handle slight discord).
The relationships with the first two new maids are the same. One is loud and old; the other is young and timid. She forces both of them to quit due to her extremely defensive and immature behavior. Her relationship with the third maid, Lucy, is heartwarming to watch. Raquel wants to force Lucy out of the way, but her opposite personality to Raquel is exactly the wake-up call she needed.
There are countless things that work in this film. “Authentic” is the word that constantly comes to mind when thinking about the movie. Everything from the character interactions to the situations Raquel finds herself facing feel extremely realistic. The movie doesn’t rely on any dramatic music cues to set the tone. Instead, the setting and acting does that for us in a much more effective way.
It feels almost like a perfectly constructed documentary than a work of fiction. The way the movie blends humor, tragedy and pity makes one feel like they’re a part of Raquel’s life. I also loved how some characters, relationships and scenes are the complete antithesis of others.
Raquel was portrayed by Catalina Saavedra, and I was completely blown away by her performance. It felt like I could use her dark glowing eyes to peer into her character’s soul. No actor or actress in this movie felt unnatural or out of place. The film made me really care about the characters, and, although I disliked Raquel for a large part of the movie, it all seemed to pay off in the end. The film has a generally simple plot, yet the character of Raquel is so complicated.
A lot of the film is brilliantly subtle, but a complaint I have is that some of the themes are repeated a couple times too many. “The Maid” is an average-length film (95 minutes), but it does tend to drag on at certain scenes.
Overall, though, it is pieced together nearly perfectly. It’ll take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and leave you thinking about that ride for weeks to come.
It has received numerous awards around the world, and for good reason: You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll never look at a maid the same. I loved most aspects of this film, and I think anyone who has an open heart and an open mind will too.
I cannot wait to see what Silva will come out with next.
Learn more about this film at www.themaidmovie.com.
This is Duluth-based film critic Marcus Jahn’s first review for the Budgeteer. He can be reached by clicking on his byline above.