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Reviews for June 26th, 2019

Annabelle Comes Home

Directed by Gary Dauberman


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

The Chambermaid

Directed by Lila Avilés

      Eve (Gabriela Cartol) works as a chambermaid at an upscale hotel in Mexico City. She attends classes to get her GED which is where she meets and befriends a coworker, Minotoy (Teresa Sanchez). Every now and then, she flirts with a window cleaner while he washes a window outside of a hotel room.

      As Hitchcock once observed, some movies are slices of cake while others are slices of life. The Chambermaid is very much the latter. Writer/director Lila Avilés and co-writer Juan Carlos Marquéz take the mundane and make it profound without the use of much dialogue or plot. This isn't the kind of movie with twists and turns or thrills nor does it grab your attention right away; it does so very gradually. There's a documentary-like feeling to the scenes that makes you forget that you're watching a fictional narrative. It's a meditative, slow-burning film that's filled with quiet moments that will test the average moviegoer's patience. Those who have patience will be rewarded with a tender, nuanced character study. The filmmakers provide no flashbacks, exposition or voice-over narration, so they clearly trust the audience's intelligence and imagination. Even a phone call that Eve makes to her family is brief and doesn't include a scene that introduces you to her family members. 99.99% of the film takes place entirely inside the hotel which becomes a character in itself.

      In a Hollywood version of The Chambermaid, Eve would probably witness a murder taking place and have a romance with the window cleaner. No such events happen during the course of the film, although Avilés and Marquéz do play around with audience's preconceived notions while skirting them. For example, when Eve spots blood on a bed sheet, you'd think maybe someone was murdered, but, alas, no----it's just menstrual blood. Minotoy comes to Eve's rescue by helping her to wash out the stained bed sheet, so that scene occurred not as a means of adding suspense, but as a stepping stone to further strengthen the bond of friendship between Eve and Minotoy. The Chambermaid doesn't have any conventional Spectacle; just a lot of Truth. Avilés and Marquéz find the Spectacle within the Truth, though, because humanism in and of itself is a special form of Spectacle if you're willing and able to perceive it. c

      If the running time were 3 hours instead of 102 minutes, The Chambermaid would've been too long, tedious and exhausting. Fortunately, the filmmakers have discipline and end the film just before it reaches that tipping point. It's fortunate that they found actors who give natural performances because each of them adds to the film's authenticity. Teresa Sanchez is a warm actress and has great comedic timing during the small moments of comic relief. You can't feel the wheels of the performances turning nor can you find the wheels of the screenplay turning. There's not a single dull moment to be found which is a testament to how the film makes the minutia of everyday life so engrossing. The Chambermaid would make for a great double feature with The Second Mother. Any comparisons to Roma, although tempting, would be futile and unfair because the infinitely transcendent Roma is in a league of its own with its poetic black-and-white cinematography.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Kino Lorber.
Opens at Film Forum.
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