Elephant Eye Films
TV actress Catalina Saavedra, a convincing and forceful presence, plays Raquel in the Chilean drama "The Maid."

THE MAID — ★★1/2 — Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedon, Mariana Loyola; with English subtitles (Spanish dialects); not rated, probable R (nudity, profanity, violence, brief sex, slurs, vulgarity, brief drugs); Broadway Centre

"The Maid" — also known as "La nana" — was shot in a faux-documentary style, which is supposed to reinforce the "reality" of its story and its character.

But that's a filmmaking faux pas. It's a needless gimmick for a film that doesn't need such trickery.

After all, the Chilean drama is well-acted, and most of the plotting and character developments seem authentic.

However, the absence of any really likable characters in the film is troublesome. Over the course of the movie, we become less interested in finding out what happens to any of these people.

The title character is Raquel, played by veteran television actress Catalina Saavedra. She's been the maid for a Chilean family for more than 20 years, and she takes her job seriously.

In fact, Raquel works so hard that she finally collapses due to sheer exhaustion. So the family matriarch, Pilar (Claudia Celedon), hires temps to lighten her workload.

Raquel, though, is so possessive about the job and the family that she begins sabotaging the newcomers' efforts.

The third act — in which she actually befriends one of the supposed "interlopers," the sunny and genial Lucy (Mariana Loyola), feels a little dishonest and contrived, considering what's come before.

And again, the pseudo-documentary trappings are distracting. The camera work is intrusive and surprising exploitative as well, as director Sebastian Silva and his crew follow Raquel and fellow servants into the shower.

Still, Saavedra is a convincing, forceful presence. We're not sure whether some of her more disturbing behavior — including using a beloved family pet to get one temp fired — is due to her fragile health or whether she's become deranged.

"The Maid" is not rated but would probably receive an R for female and partial male nudity, scattered strong profanity, brief violent content and imagery (a scuffle involving two women, as well as implied violence against animals), brief sexual contact (mostly implied), derogatory language and slurs, some suggestive language and references (slang), and brief drug use (prescription medications). Running time: 95 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com