Chapel Hill
The Maid

Chelsea TheaterEver since Jean Genet concocted a play called The Maids, which he based on a notorious 1933 case in which two maidsand sistersmurdered their employers, any kind of setup involving a bourgeois family and their resentful, passive-aggressive domestic help should put audiences on alert. For most Americans, the social relationships depicted in such stories are thankfully alien: Very few of us grow up with live-in servants (or any other kind) and thus have no experience of living with the class imbalancesand complicated male-female relationships such a situation entails. Naturally, we associate these stories with bad old Europe, but a new movie opening tonight at the Chelsea tells the story in Chile. The film, from writer-director Sebastian Silva, opens with an ominous scene: We see Raquel, a haggard, exhausted maid, sitting down to eat alone while we hear the family chattering in the next room. It turns out that they’re preparing to celebrate her birthday, which she seems oddly reluctant to acknowledge. Little fissures appear over the following days: Raquel is overworked and suffering from headaches, and she harbors a disturbing animus toward the family’s oldest daughter Camila. One day, Camila brings a kitten home, thus ramping up our dread … . But surprises are in storeincluding some humorbefore a charismatic new maid enters the household late in the film. Silva’s film keeps us off-balance up to its just-right ending.David Fellerath