Sebastian Silva on THE MAID

Anybody Home? Catalina Saavedra is THE MAID.

Anybody Home? Catalina Saavedra is THE MAID.

New York Magazine’s David Edelstein pretty much called it: About midway through, you could be forgiven for worrying if THE MAID was teetering on the precipice of going the full, THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE route — a concern that’s only enhanced when a stray cat turns up that seems to have “I Will Be the First to Go” stamped on its scrawny forehead. Calm yourself. This may be director Sebastián Silva’s portrait of a woman whose soul has been worn into submission by years — hell, decades — of labor in a middle-class household, but his goal is more empathetic than what you’ll find in your formulaic, domestic horror show.

Nevertheless, Raquel — the titular maid played by Catalina Saavedra — is juuuust a little scary. After twenty-three years of being the live-in domestic for a family in Santiago, Chile, she seems to be permanently, emotionally stunted. And when Pilar, the woman of the house (Claudia Celedón), decides to ease Raquel’s burden by bringing in some new help — threatening the maid’s primacy in the only world she knows — Raquel’s defense mechanisms go into full, passive-aggressive attack mode. There’s a touch of farce to how she initially strikes back at her putative usurpers (an elderly maid, having been summarily locked out of the house, has to scale a wall to get back in), but when one young woman (Mariana Loyola) refuses to succumb to Raquel’s tactics, the film turns from its flirtation with the dark side to an examination of whether a person so damaged can find her way back to humanity. Credit both Saavedra’s performance and Silva’s insight that there will be no ready answer to that question.

Silva recently sat down with me to provide some perspective on the world of the Latin American domestic and discuss how he managed pull this project off on a limited production schedule (hint: shooting in your family home helps). Click on the player above to hear the interview.


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