La Nana: One Maid’s Struggle In The Chilean Home

In many Santiago families there is a hidden force that creates the structure and functionality of the household. This backbone of the home is rarely seen or mentioned. If one looks closely however, they can see that this structure is embodied by La Nana (The Maid). Sebastian Silva’s film of the same name brings this position to light, sharing with audiences the intricacies of a lifetime of servitude to the Chilean elite.

Image courtesy of <em>La Nana</em>
Image courtesy of La Nana

Catalina Saavedra plays Raquel in the film, a maid who has spent over twenty years of her life living in a small room of a wealthy family’s home in Santiago. She dresses in the same uniform every day, leading a monotonous life of sending the children off to school and then cleaning every inch of the home where her ‘family’ carelessly leaves dirty sheets and other mess for her to take care of.

It is easy to see that Raquel is struggling mentally and physically in her position. Throughout the film her eyes bulge and anxiety is ever present in her features. Raquel’s health seems to be waning, but little is done to combat it besides a somewhat constant use of headache medicine that she takes quickly, drinking out of the sink to wash the pill down before moving on to the next chore.

Things only get worse for this maid when the family, with seemingly good intentions, decides to hire another maid to help Raquel out. Sensing her job might be in peril, Raquel immediately attacks these new maids, locking them outside and making them feel unwelcome by doing things such as disinfecting the bathroom after they shower. Her antics chase away two maids but also highlight the stress and mental instability that Raquel is facing in her daily life.

Image courtesy of <em>La Nana</em>
Image courtesy of La Nana

The headaches at one point take such a toll that Raquel becomes ill enough to be sent to the hospital. At this point extra help is brought into the home in the form of Lucy (Mariana Loyola). As soon as she returns, Raquel tries all of her old tricks to get rid of this threat to her family, but there is something about Lucy that is resistant to her antics.

A friendship is formed between the two maids and through this the audience can see a more rounded character in Raquel. It opens her up as more of a person than just the background of this family’s household. Not only does Lucy help the audience see where Raquel is coming from, but she also helps Raquel herself take the slightest bit of control of her life and slowly emerge from her drone-like state.

Image courtesy of <em>La Nana</em>
Image courtesy of La Nana

This film is fascinating in many ways. It does not simply document the life of this class in Chile, the class of servitude, but it also gives The Maids of Santiago a sort of past, present, and future. The film is not your average plot of the bourgeoisie against the lower class; it is more of a unique picture of one maid and her family who struggle to know what they are to one another. Are they family? Or is Raquel simply another part of the home that makes everything and everybody else run a little smoother.

La Nana makes one cringe and uncomfortable, but at the same time somehow brings out a feeling of hope as an at times unlikeable but sympathetic character is rounded out to be understandable by all.

La Nana (Sebastian Silva, Chile, 2009)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTY8CJhvjOw

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