Generally, when I read any piece of criticism that refers to a movie as some kind of “metaphor for capitalism,” I cringe inside. It usually feels like an easy fallback, a way to sound smart when they just purely enjoyed something. But in the case of Sebastián Silva’s “The Maid,” it actually applies.
My pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” is a worker’s dilemma in a nutshell. Silva, with co-writer Pedro Peirano, examine the dynamics of economic competition from the perspective of well-ensconced maid Raquel (Catalina Saavedra). Her experience is highly personal, yet it also an excellent metaphor for what people are forced to do when efficiency trumps humanity.
Raquel has served a well-to-do Chilean family for over two decades, caring for their children and tending to their house. They have a great fondness for her, yet she also knows her place in the pecking order. After all these years, Raquel assumes a certain amount of job security, though that all changes when family matriarch Pilar decides she needs an extra set of hands around the house.
Raquel had gotten somewhat complacent and lackadaisical about her work, but this new threat jolts her into action. Knowing she needs to fight tooth and nail to keep her relatively comfortable position means the claws come out. Pilar tries out two maids to work alongside Raquel, one more seasoned and another of more spry youth. Neither is any match for the malicious attacks Raquel has in store for them as she tries to scare them off.
Somehow, Silva finds that tiny area between black comedy and borderline pathetic drama. Raquel is slightly sympathetic in her desired ends yet absolutely repulsive in her chosen means to achieve that goal. She’s ultimately only as good as the system that spawned her, one that forces her to get nasty to stay afloat.