review by Lorraine James
If you are tired and weary of the bevy of formulaic blockbuster movies to come out of Hollywood, bored of sequels and prequels and done with superheroes, then The Chambermaid could be the film for you this summer. Directed by Lila Avilés, who has won awards for her short film Deja Vu, The Chambermaid is her debut feature. Written in collaboration with Juan Carlos Marquéz, it follows the daily routine of Eve (Gabriela Cartol): a shy, hardworking and conscientious chambermaid, who works in a luxurious Mexican city hotel.
The audience is invited on a journey into Eve’s life as the film focuses on her hopes and dreams as she tries to attain education through the hotel literacy programme and a promotion to the prestigious 42nd floor. As we follow her we are aware that her world is totally separate from that of the strangers she tidies up after. Theirs is a world of privilege that she can only look in on. She is fascinated with the possessions left in the rooms she tidies and takes great interest in the guests belongings. The two worlds are contrasted starkly when Eve is offered a glimmer of hope for a better life for her and her son by an Argentinian guest who suggests she becomes a nanny to her child, only to have her hopes dashed as she realises the woman has checked out. Additionally, it highlights the physically unpleasant aspects of her job as we follow her as she cleans rooms, scrubs bathrooms, rides in the service elevators, and the emotional as we witness the callous and indifferent ways the guests treat her. It accentuates the invisibility of her existence.
The Chambermaid is shot in a fly on the wall documentary style and is a masterclass in self-restraint. There is no excess. Rather than multiple camera angles, Avilés and Director of photography Carlos F. Rossini have opted to use a fixed camera much of the time, allowing for the drama to unfold naturally in front of it. Likewise, instead of a complicated score, Avilés has opted to focus on the ambient sound present in the hotel.
There is a subtly to this film that is not often found. Although subtitles often put people off foreign language films, this should not stop you from seeing this. The nature of the film allows for plenty of time to read and watch what is happening onscreen. Cartol gives a first-class performance and Teresa Sanchez as Minitoy plays a strong supporting role.
You will come away from this film not only with a renewed respect for the often unseen work of hotel workers everywhere, but you will also learn some very handy tricks for getting your own home first class ready! You are guaranteed never to leave your hotel room in a mess ever again.
The Chambermaid will continue screening in Irish cinemas until August 14th.