The Maid is one of those claustrophobic movies that seldom roams into varied locations and keeps to one character almost all the time, yet feels open and finds in the littlest of actions an expansive interior world. The interior world for the viewer, though, is a mystery, because it is unverbalized. The Maid is a visual movie, almost seeming like a narratorless documentary. It is in the subtle scenes and excellent acting of the actor who plays Raquel that makes the anything but dry.
As the movie opens that employs Raquel is trying to celebrate her 40th birthday. She is unwilling to celebrate it with them, though. Is she shy, or afraid? It is not clear. What is obvious is she is a quiet, pensive character. She goes about her work quickly and efficiently, but also disturbs the older daughter while sleeping in a fit of vindictiveness. She protests to the mother of the family about bringing in another maid to helper, saying she has always taken care of the family for 20 years. When a maid is brought in anyway, she locks her out of the house. When another maid is brought in she locks her out of the house too. Through all this strange behavior, though, the family keeps her. Finally, though, what ever was bothering her leads to her collapse and she ends up in the hospital driven in a panic by the family as if she was their own child. While she is in the hospital the family brings in a new maid, Lucy. Lucy is unlike the other maids and when Raquel returns to work and tries to lock her out of the house instead of trying to get back in the house, begins to nude sunbathe. It breaks the ice between them and they soon become friends and Raquel goes with her to her family’s farm for Christmas, something it is implied she hadn’t done since she’d lived with the family. When Lucy leaves, Raquel is disappointed, but instead of retreating into her old shell, takes up one of Lucy’s hobbies, jogging. As the movie ends Raquel is running down a street in listening to music and dressed just like Lucy when she went jogging.
Raquel is a mystery. What is bothering her and why is she taking it out on the family? What is apparent is her need for a wider experience, not so much in adventures in the world, but among friends. She has lived with a very paternal family that appreciates her, but does constrain her. She has lived with them for 20 years and has known almost nothing else. She is cut off from her family for a reason that is never explained but obviously bothers her. She is part child that has never grown moving into the family at 20 and a perfectionist who can no longer stand the exactitude. When she goes to Lucy’s she goes to bed with Lucy’s uncle but is unable to consummate the night probably because it is outside her experience. Moreover, the family she lives with is very religious with crucifixes in every room and prayers every night. Between her youth, her inexperience and the family she lives with, she is struggling to grow up. When Lucy comes, she presents a new avenue, not just another maid just like her. The final scene of the film is of Raquel taking on not only the persona of Lucy, but a new persona that is free of the house and her past.
The even handedness of the film as it finds Raquel and Raquel finds herself is what makes the film so good. It is a search without the conventions of search; a movie of self discovery without the clichés of self discovery. It is a movie where the questions you are left with will begin the search and extend the film beyond the theater—the mark of a good film.