The Chambermaid is a gem of a Mexican film, directed by Lila Aviles and tightly focused on a cleaner in a swish hotel in Mexico City.
She is Eve, played by Gabriela Cartol, and we can place her, and the movie, alongside Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA, although the camera here is unforgiving in its relentless gaze. It watches Eve goi about her business cleaning up people’s mess, making their beds (even discovering them still sleeping off their mini-bar binges in the crumpled sheets), lining up their toiletries, scrubbing their crap off the white surfaces, fluffing their pillows and straightening the linen to a crisp.
When not in the rooms, Eve is in the corridors; and then in the servants areas, the canteen and the laundry room, the workers’ quarters, where an Upstairs Downstairs division is maintained. The staff should never mix with guests, although they can claim their lost property after a long wait – Eve has her eye on a red dress she once handed in, months ago.
Eve is ambitious. She takes training classes, funded by the hotel, to learn English and hospitality. She wants to work on the 42nd floor, where the luxury suites are and the richer clients. For now, though, there’s a guest in another room who wants her to hold her baby while she has a shower.
And now one of the window cleaners has taken a shine to Eve. Dare she respond? And what about another maid who is offering friendship and shift-swaps?
This is a film about connections and divisions, about class and wealth, all very stylishly done with a clinical, almost Haneke-style sterility. Eve’s life in the hotel – a micro-society unto itself – is not the same as what we must imagine to be a difficult family existence outside. It’s a film about the world economy, translated into human form and told through the eyes and heart of a young woman slowly losing hope.