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Make it Snappy: "The Maid"

Catalina Saavedra in the title role as Raquel. Photo: Elephant Eye Pictures.

How different the second surprise birthday party is! Sebasti n Silva's "The Maid" opens with a profoundly reluctant Raquel, just turned 41, refusing to come out of the kitchen for the lit cake and presents she knows await in her employers' dining room after supper. After all, she has been with the Valdez family for 23 years, since before the birth of the oldest, Camila (Andrea Garc a-Huidobros). Mundo, the father (Alejandro Go c), furiously rings the hand bell they use to summon her -- "Can't we move this along?" he asks, impatient to get back to his ship model-building -- and the mother, Pilar (Claudia Celed n), sends Raquel's favorite among the four children, Lucas (August n Silva), to fetch her. He decides, and reports back to the table, that she is "too embarrassed." Eventually drawn into the moment when the family bursts out with cheers and applause -- presumably this beneficent ritual surprise occurs annually like clockwork -- Raquel reacts with an equal mixture of pleasure and resentment. This turns into ammunition later when she cuts short a call from her own mother, saying, "I have to go -- we are celebrating with the family!" She savors this especially since she thinks she's just fended off Pilar's suggestion to hire a second maid to help her.

Near to the film's end comes the second surprise party, which Raquel herself has organized for that second maid, Lucy (Mariana Loyola). Bestowing a genuine surprise out of real though unexpected affection, Raquel turns the format she's endured from the Valdezes into a moment of enthusiasm everyone shares. Like the first party, this one is also followed by an unwelcome announcement: Lucy has decided to leave and return to her family. Raquel is bereft. There's been quite a lot of water, as they say, under the bridge.

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