96 minutes| Chile-Mexico| 2009| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema

Grand Jury Prize-winner at Sundance, Chilean writer-director Sebastian Silva’s debut feature is a brilliantly observed drama lifting the lid on the shifting balance of power between employers and domestic help in an upscale Santiago household. Never forgetting the sheer toil of 40-something maid Raquel’s daily lot, without which the parents and kids she works for would simply cease to function, Silva’s film brings spiky wit and ultimately compassion to bear on this portrait of a woman beginning to realise she’s become her job and not herself. Silva takes care never to demonise the homeowners, whose very milquetoast niceness enables the often vindictive maid to take advantage of them, yet the core of his film is Catalina Saavedra’s alternately touching and sinister central performance. Her volatile transformation from moment to moment is unnerving and sometimes darkly amusing, but it also establishes the notion that for this woman with a seemingly circumscribed existence, change begins from within. Hugely entertaining, yet subtly haunting. (Notes by Trevor Johnston).

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