It is hard to imagine many dramas as devastating as Lila Avilés’ sublimely understated The Chambermaid, an extraordinary study into the daily disappointments and silent struggles of a chambermaid working for a lavish hotel in Mexico City.
Just as Eve’s (Gabriela Cartol) daily routines as a maid are arduous, so is Avilés’ cinematic gaze; her focus remains tirelessly on the inside of the hotel for the duration of the film. All the while we follow Eve’s hopes to study, gain a promotion to the 42nd floor and be given a red dress that lays unclaimed in lost and found.
There are no huge dramatic crescendos in The Chambermaid – Avilés illustrates instead the pain of having to work through devastating blows. At one point Eve manages to grip onto a “toy” electrifying device that one member of staff has found; the moment finds audiences shaking with exhilaration at the character’s first outpour of emotion; she screams as the voltage is increased.
Avilés’ poetic portrayal of humanity emerges in the little trinkets, oddities, and happenings that are scattered throughout. Her script masterfully conveys secret moments that arise when no one is watching. These moments, alongside the intimacy cinematographer Carlos Rossini draws from the hotel’s bright interior, pull us so close to Eve that we lie in wait, terrified for the narrative blow that will come after such a soft, empathetic touch.
The Chambermaid refuses to make concessions for those waiting for an uplifting, or even satisfying, ending. Instead, the outcome is quiet, unapologetically political and deeply affecting. Although it may not shout as loud as other titles amongst the LFF lineup, what Avilés does say with The Chambermaid makes it worth a second look.
CAST: Gabriela Cartol, Teresa Sánchez
DIRECTOR: Lila Avilés
WRITERS: Lila Avilés, Juan Carlos Marquéz
SYNOPSIS: An exploration into Mexico City’s working class through the daily struggles experienced by a young Chambermaid.