The Colombian maid for a wealthy Spanish family begins to expand her own horizons in this accomplished debut

The Quiet Maid

Source: Tallinn Black Nights

‘The Quiet Maid’

Dir/scr: Miguel Faus. Spain. 2023. 90mins

Recently arrived in Spain from Colombia, Ana (Paula Grimaldo) works tirelessly and diligently as a maid for a wealthy art dealer. At the family’s well-appointed summer villa in the Costa Brava, Ana is the invisible oil that makes the life of luxury run smoothly. But then Ana strikes up a friendship with Gisela (Nany Tovar) the maid next door, and her horizons suddenly broaden. The Quiet Maid is by no means the only film to explore the uneasy hinterland between the ultra-wealthy and the workers who service their needs. But Miguel Faus’ accomplished feature debut is a notable addition to the class conflict sub-genre, a film that combines a distinctive tone and striking visual sense with a knock-out performance from Grimaldo, fully inhabiting a role that deliciously defies our expectations.

Combines a distinctive tone and striking visual sense with a knock-out performance from Paula Grimaldo

There is an obvious thematic kinship with the work of Michael Haneke and pictures like Ruben Ostlund’s Triangle Of Sadness, but The Quiet Maid perhaps has most in common, in its aim to see through the eyes of the staff rather than the employers, with Lila Avilés The Chambermaid, which followed a cleaner in a high-end hotel in Mexico City. The film might not be distinctive enough in its satire of the wealth divide to make much of an impact in a crowded arthouse theatrical market, but it should enjoy a healthy festival run and launches Faus as a talent to watch. 

The Quiet Maid is an adaptation of one of the director’s short films, Calladita, which screened at several festivals before getting picked up by HBO Max for streaming in the US. It is also the recipient of the first Andrews/Bernard Award, decided and funded by director Steven Soderbergh, winning $100,000 in post-production funds at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It is also worth noting that this is the first European production to be funded by the sale of NTFs (non-fungible tokens), a fact that ties in rather neatly with a third-act climax in which cryptocurrencies play a notable role. 

Unfolding in a moneyed, modernist architectural gem with pristine white walls and the kind of huge picture windows that somebody (Ana) is forever having to clean, the film’s location is smartly chosen. There is a coldness and impersonal quality to the space – half show-home, half gallery – a contrast to the vividly saturated palette that makes Ana’s hot pink uniform and the searing blue of the pool leap off the screen. Like the family that Ana serves, the colours in this world are impossibly rich.

Ana is professionally invisible, but that does not stop her from being fascinated by the trappings of wealth – the art, hung reverently and appreciated more for its value than its beauty; the casual bragging of Jacobo (Pol Hermoso), the family’s crypto-bro son; the vapid exhibitionism of Claudia (Violeta Rodríguez) the insta-obsessed daughter. And Ana’s curiosity about the world doesn’t stop at the walls of the villa. Through Gisela, she learns about Tinder and is tempted to join the late-night parties on the local beach.

Ana’s arc is a particularly satisfying one, not least because it is clear from early in the film that she is smart and, as the story unfolds, it becomes evident that she is also strong. Despite her uncertain position as an immigrant without papers, Ana has agency and control in her life and her decisions. Her wits and ingenuity give her an upper hand, but the most enjoyable moments come when she also harnesses her anger.

Production company: Calladita Films, Potenza Producciones, Decentralized Pictures

International sales: Film Sharks

Producers: Miguel Faus, Carlo D’Ursi

Cinematography: Antonio Galisteo

Editing: Iacopo Calabrese

Production design: Ana Garcia Rico

Music: Paula Olaz

Main cast: Paula Grimaldo, Ariadna Gil, Luis Bermejo, Pol Hermoso, Violeta Rodríguez, Victor Rebull, Eduard Torres, Nany Tovar