All of us are bothered and sometimes bewildered by messes in the places of our lives. We regularly try to bring order to them, but again and again we are overwhelmed. The ways out of this pattern are yearning and imagination — we open our hearts and minds to new possibilities.
This is the experiences of the 24-year-old hotel worker in The Chambermaid. This fascinating film by Mexican writer and director Lila Aviles is set entirely in the upscale Hotel Presidente Intercontinental Hotel in Mexico City.
In the opening scene, Eve (Gabriela Cartol) is cleaning a room and is astonished to find the guest lying on the floor tangled up in the sheets. He gets up and leaves, and she carries on with her efforts to contain and restrain chaos in rooms cluttered with clothes and possessions. Another guest keeps pestering her for extra towels and amenities. A young mother, left alone in the hotel with her young baby, asks Eve to watch the child while she showers; this becomes an ongoing off-the-books childcare job.
Eve works very hard, performing one repetitive task after another as she goes through her shift. When another worker gets behind, she steps in to help. She checks in by phone with her young child's caregiver and spends her breaks looking out the windows to the city below or reading a book in an empty room. Her curiosity and imagination liven up the drudgery of her work. She looks through a guest's things to imagine what their lives might be like. Who knows, the wastebasket might yield a surprise.
Eve is a loner who speaks rarely. This both attracts and repels others including a critical supervisor, a fellow maid who is determined to bring more laughter into her working life (Teresa Sánchez), and a window-cleaner whose obsession with her pays off in a sexual treat beyond his wildest dreams.
The Chambermaid is a superbly paced and well-acted slice-of-life. Eve's dreams may seem modest. She would like to get assigned to a higher, more luxurious floor. And she'd like to take home a red dress she found in one of the rooms and turned in to her supervisor. What's clear is that routine and even disappointment will not stifle her yearning. Filmgoers will empathize with her, cheer for her, and admire her resilience.