BFI #LFF 2018: THE CHAMBERMAID (LA CAMARISTA) Film Review

THE CHAMBERMAID Film Still

Lila Avilés confronts the monotony of long workdays in her compelling and deeply resonant debut feature THE CHAMBERMAID

Mexican actor-turned-director Lila Avilés confronts the monotony of long workdays with a quiet examination of forgotten belongings and budding friendships in her acutely observed feature debut THE CHAMBERMAID.

Set almost entirely within the rooms, corridors and service spaces of one of Mexico City’s five-star hotels, THE CHAMBERMAID follows Eve, a hard-working and diligent chambermaid with a broad smile and kind demeanour. Long, laborious shifts prevent Eve from caring for her four-year-old son while she is forced to help guests with their own children. Believing her situation will improve if she is promoted to work in the executive suites, she accepts a gruelling schedule. To meet her goal, she also enrols in the hotel’s adult education programme.

With its dry humour and sly observations, THE CHAMBERMAID is a compelling and pointed exploration of the Mexican class divide. Stunningly captured by Carlos Rossini’s creative camerawork, this impressive feature debut highlights the isolated and lonely lives of ordinary working people, mixing the surreal with the banal to devastating effect in this wry take on class, privilege and exploitation.

THE CHAMBERMAID Film Still

Much of THE CHAMBERMAID’s power derives from the repetitiveness of Eve’s daily grind. Endless shots of ruffling pillows, folding toilet paper, cleaning baths and wiping down windows sit alongside crafty interactions between the low-level workers and the ill-mannered, demanding and crude hotel clients. Avilés stresses this stifling world through smart camera choices, working with the same precision and neatness that Eve cleans the luxurious bedrooms. The magnificent skyscapes are on view for Eve to see but never to enjoy, as she remains locked in an eternal bubble of work, work and work with no respite in sight.

Yet, underneath this all is a highly spirited character, quietly waiting to burst forth. A poised lead performance by Gabriela Cartol brings charisma and warmth to Eve, the young woman whose calm forbearance and subdued silence says so much without actually saying anything at all. The sense of weary resignation in her Eve’s eyes is apparent from the opening scene so when Eve’s humdrum existence is occasionally piqued by moments of insight, we relish them all the more.

A compelling and deeply resonant feature debut from Avilés.

(4 / 5)

THE CHAMBERMAID screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 18 October 2018.

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1