A peek into the complex life of a very alive chambermaid.
Director: Lila Aviles
Screenplay: Aviles, Juan Marquez
Cast: Gabriela Cartol (Tattoo of Revenge), Teresa Sanchez (Summer of Goliath)
Runtime: 1h 42m
By: John DeSando
For over an hour and a half, I watched the daily routine of a chambermaid at a posh Mexico City hotel, and I wasn’t the bit bored. In writer-director Lila Aviles’s The Chambermaid, Eve (Gabriela Cartol) experiences with us through the magic of the camera a life as a maid in a hotel with small events that take her through aspiration, eroticism, and disappointment.
Aviles’s camera moves very little as it lets Cartol’s expressive face tell us about the highs and lows of a blue-collar mom working for her baby and her own social elevation. Not only is she likeable, but she is admirable for the way she does her very best at housekeeping and improving her lot in life with evening school.
Each fold of a sheet or electroshock titillation from co-worker Minitoy (Teresa Sanchez) lets us in to her yearnings and her escapes. When we watch her perform an erotic act for a window washer admirer, we see a 24-year old woman with passions that go beyond her staid working life. Her emergence into an extrovert in her evening class is, like her, slow but sure as she grows into independence and extroversion.
What matters here is that an unexemplary life has yearnings and romance that are hidden to everyone but the camera, revealing a woman of many layers and good intentions, buffeted by fate and her own kindnesses from her desires and ambitions. As in Alfonse Cuaron’s Roma, the servant has the insight, but unlike Roma, The Chambermaid is bereft of nostalgia and dominated by the quotidian forces that define modern life, rich or poor.
Here is a winning effort from a first-time filmmaker and a memorable slice of life sure to inform how we see housekeeping in whatever hotel we visit, be it Mexico City, London, or any other great city that hides the lives of the working poor.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com.