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The story of how a maid called Raquel, who has worked for over 20 years in one affluent Chilean household, rediscovers herself. La Nana is a microcosm of Latin social hierarchy while also focusing on one woman's journey to free herself from a mental servitude of her own making Written by
Elephant Eye Films
La Nana (2009), shown in the U.S. as "The Maid," was written and directed by Sebastián Silva. This film recounts the life, and plight, of a maid in a well-to-do Chilean family. Catalina Saavedra portrays Raquel, who has worked for the same family for 23 years. She lives in their home, and knows their habits, secrets, and idiosyncrasies.
The problem is that Raquel has no life outside of the family, and nothing much to show for these years of devoted service. It's true that everyone considers her "one of the family," but she really isn't. When her behavior becomes somewhat erratic, the family has to cope with the problem.
To their credit, they don't consider firing Raquel, but their solution is to hire another maid. Raquel perceives this as a threat to her position and identity. Her efforts to force the new maids to leave are treated as comedy, and they are humorous, but beneath the humor is the sad fact that if Raquel loses her central position within the household, she loses her the only thing of value that she has.
Catalina Saavedra is outstanding as Raquel. In fact, it would be hard to imagine another actor in the role. You accept her as La Nana, and you have to remind yourself that this is a work of fiction, not a documentary about domestic service in Chile.
The film is worth seeking out, although the ending is not really satisfying. Despite the weak ending, it's a movie made with skill and obvious respect for the protagonist. It was shown in the Dryden Theatre, Rochester, as part of the excellent Rochester Labor Film Series. It may be hard to find in a theater, and will work well on a small screen. See it!
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