Domésticas Movie Review
The film is shot in pseudo-documentary format and follows five women's lives as domestic laborers and their bleak existence outside of their jobs. One thing they all share is a deep hatred of their employers, who oddly are never shown in the film. While they all have different reasons for ending up in their current occupation, the most frequent explanation is that the women were born into it. In fact, the most profound statement of the entire movie is the very first line, when a housemaid talks about a long lineage of maids dating back to the days of slavery. Frighteningly, the lack of upward mobility associated with their jobs still eerily mirrors a form of indentured servitude.
Domésticas attempts to find solace in the humanistic aspects of each of the maid's lives. One longs to be a model but ends up hooking when the crooked talent agency turns out to be an escort service. While she makes $200 a day as a prostitute, she inexplicably keeps her day job. Another woman toils day after day at her employer's estate only to come home to a deadbeat husband. Predictably, she ends up in a wild extramarital fling while her oblivious husband shows complete indifference, until one day he ends up dying right in front of the TV! Free from marital obligations, the woman has the opportunity to move on, yet for some reason, she also keeps her repressive day job. The directorial style splinters the women's lives through transition after transition, which fragments the story into subplots that never get resolved.
After hearing the stories firsthand, I kept asking, where is the overarching example embodying the true oppression these women face? The answer comes with the final credits rolling, when a woman who appears to be a real maid bellows out her story of injustice.
The comedy genre seems inappropriate, as it merely serves to candy-coat these women's lives. Frustratingly, several characters appear to have ample opportunity to get away from their dire occupations, yet they somehow choose to remain, stuck in lives that render them almost invisible to the greater Brazilian society. The maids are neither ambitious for a better life, nor do they appear to be mired in poverty, which I fear is the unfortunate reality. Domésticas lands somewhere in the middle, and while it is successful in its goal of exposing this underclass of people to the world, its moderate approach fails in its attempt to be truly compelling.
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