Not many films, or actresses, would let the central female role of a movie be underestimated for so long. Blank-faced, bone-tired, and implacable, Catalina Saavedra delivers a wonderful, slow-brewing performance as Raquel, a 41-year-old Chilean maid who's served one family her entire working life. Bustling around her, the haut-bourgeois Valdes clan is both appreciative of and indifferent to her constant labors. They own an expensive Santiago home with swimming pool; the wife is a university professor, while her husband plays golf and builds model ships; and it's Raquel who organizes the lives of their four kids. Señor and Señora Valdes need Raquel, but she's replaceable. (Also: She just doesn't seem very happy or appreciative. Doesn't she ever smile?) And when loveless, childless Raquel suffers some fainting spells, the Battle of the Maids begins. Hired helpers and potential replacements dare to usurp her place, and she fights back with cunning. Writer-director Sebastián Silva dedicates this film to the two maids from his childhood home, so you've got to assume some of Raquel's stratagems are true. And some are very, very funny—though the movie's not strictly a comedy. Rather, it's a powerful character study of delayed self-realization. And one of the best titles I've seen this year.
Saavedra offers a profile in fatigue.
Runs at Seven Gables, Fri., Dec. 4–Thurs., Dec. 10. Not rated. 95 minutes.