The Chambermaid, co-written and directed by Lila Avilés, is yet another attempt at capturing the plight of the lower-class Mexican workforce. However, unlike last year’s Roma, this film feels much less pretentious and tedious.
Avilés’s movie follows a young maid in one of the most luxurious hotels in Mexico City as she goes about her day-to-day activities. Although this may not be the most exciting premise on paper, it is much more interesting in execution. The interactions that the protagonist, Eve, has over the course of the film are quite interesting and explore some interesting ideas.
Of course, the most obvious theme in the movie is about the division between social classes in Mexico and the world as a whole and how the wealthier classes have a tendency to exploit the workers. However, unlike Roma, The Chambermaid approaches its subject matter with a level of subtlety and nuance. Although overtly political, the film chooses not to bash its message over the heads of the audience.
Part of the reason the movie works so well is that the protagonist is developed quite nicely. Over the course of the story, it is easy to sympathize with Eve as we see her interacting with various patrons and co-workers. Gabriela Cartol plays the protagonist in a way that is packed with emotion. Granted, her performance isn’t quite as much of a standout as Yalitza Aparicio’s in Roma, but it is still quite impressive.
The development of the supporting characters is nowhere near as complex as that of the protagonist, but it works quite well. Unlike Roma, The Chambermaid is not bogged down by unnecessary subplots and other flourishes that feel significantly underdeveloped. The sole purpose of the supporting characters is to bring about change in the protagonist, with sometimes powerful results.
One of the more powerful moments in the film happens between Eve and one of the guests staying at the hotel. The guest, who is an upper-class recent mother, relies on Eve to watch her child so that she can take a shower. The relationship that forms between Eve and the guest is unorthodox and fascinating, introducing a new theme about motherhood and the need to balance work and personal responsibilities.
On a technical level, there is admittedly no way that the movie would ever match the grand black-and-white cinematography of Roma. However, the style of The Chambermaid, having more elegant simplicity, works quite well given the theme that is so dominant in the film. The cinematography, for example, is very nice and does a great job of taking advantage of the confined setting of the hotel. The production design is also good, helping immerse you in the movie.
The Chambermaid is, for all intents and purposes, a more subtle version of Roma. If you are a fan of Cuarón’s film, this may seem stale and redundant to you. However, if you were left wanting something more from last year’s critical darling, Avilés’s take on the subject is sure to be intriguing.
The Chambermaid is now playing in theaters.