Thank you Jenny. I sat next to Jenny on my first day and we chatted. She is a regular MIFF-goer and one year stepped in to manage the festival, so she knows her films. We compared our schedules and she saw that I was seeing Magic Magic by Chilean director Sebastián Silva, who is having a retrospective at MIFF this year. Although she quite liked that film, she recommended two others of his – The Maid and Old Cats. So I booked The Maid and loved it.
Silva introduced the film and let us know that the story was based on the experience of his family and was filmed in his parent’s house. We meet Raquel, the maid of the title, who is in her early 40s and has looked after the family of Pilar and Mundo and their four children for 25 years. You can see that the family feels genuinely warmly toward her but there is always a divide, something perpetuated by the family and Raquel. Raquel is not completely well, we don’t know why, and she has little patience for the eldest daughter, Camilla, often arguing with her. Pilar’s solution to the discord is to employ a succession of other maids to help Raquel with her workload. This is where the story gets interesting as Raquel does what she can to sabotage this. We admire her creativity whilst also worrying about her fragility.
Silva brings out the characters of all of the main players well, in particular Raquel, Lucy (the newest maid), Pilar, Camilla, Lucas and Mundo. There are some beautiful scenes where we read so much from a small action or expression of one of the characters – Mundo disappearing out the door with his golf clubs, Raquel suffering and Lucas being the only one who sees, Pilar checking the label of the gift that Raquel has given Lucy. The story unfolds quite slowly and we feel like we are flies on the wall in someone’s home, watching the small interactions of the everyday, the loneliness we can all carry when we cut ourselves off from others. The ending is beautiful, understated, wordless but it says so much.